After a half-year break, I started going back with the pet at night to Dog Fancier’s Park, the off-leash dog park near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. It’s the largest and nicest around Las Vegas, with stadium lighting until 11 p.m. and bathrooms for humans. A friendly place, dog owners chat while their canines cavort. But I’m not sure I’m going to continue visiting.
The reason isn’t so much that in the age of COVID-19 virtually none of the other adults are wearing masks (one of the reasons I stopped going last fall). After all, since mid-February I’ve been fully vaccinated (Moderna, if you want to know). Federal authorities now say I’m good to go, with or without a mask on me or those around me.
It’s that I run into folks who actually brag that they haven’t gotten vaccinated and have no intention of becoming so. They are also sitting at the other end of a park bench from me that’s not really six feet long.
How does the issue of their vaccination status come up? Well, a la Forrest Gump on that Savannah bench, I often ask, as politely as I can. I suppose this might become the New Protocol of the coronavirus age, although in Las Vegas, at least, getting the truth is always a crap shoot.
On one recent night, the fellow in his late 30s on my bench told me the whole vaccination scheme was “corrupt.” He hadn’t gotten the shots and said he had no plans to get them. He seemed proud of this. His German shepherd puppy played happily in front of us.
I asked what he considered to be the corrupt element of the coronavirus vaccine system. I can’t say that I got an answer I understood. I don’t think he was denying the severity of coronavirus. He might have been making some kind of a political argument, although–officially, at least–all political parties profess to be in favor of vaccination.
On another night, my benchmate, a woman perhaps in her mid-40s, said she hadn’t gotten around to shots and probably wouldn’t. I asked why. As her white some-kind-of-mutt sniffed the butt of my dog, she said she had it figured out. Every day she was around so many people that she already had “herd immunity.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her herd immunity applies to a group, not to an individual, the U.S. was nowhere near that yet and her not getting shots wasn’t helping things.
One mask-less person I know, a man about 40 with a pit bull, told a friend in the park he was sure he didn’t have the virus and thus couldn’t spread it and cause death. I can think of nearly 600,000 reasons why that could be wrong.
By the latest statistics I can find, among the 50 states, Nevada has the 15th lowest rate of full vaccination, at 35%. While more and more states are reporting no new COVID-19 deaths, Nevada is reporting about seven a day, usually all in the Las Vegas area, and, on Friday, 267 new cases. With 1% of the U.S. population, Nevada reported 1.25% of the new cases, and 1.1% of the new deaths. To me, there’s a correlation here, and not one I like.
Overall, this squares with the cavalier attitude toward vaccinations and masks I have perceived in my recent travels around Las Vegas. In this Mecca of gambling, it might be that the locals simply have a higher tolerance for risk. It will be interesting to see how the numbers go after Tuesday’s official “full reopening” of Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, coupled with an ongoing big marketing blitz around the country by the tourism agency.
Meanwhile, for all I know, my dog wonders why I am just about the only creature at the dog park wearing a muzzle.