On this Labor Day, I know I’ll sound like a broken record. But Las Vegas as a whole in my view still isn’t taking the COVID-19 pandemic as seriously as it should. For me, the evidence–besides all the unmasked folks I see walking around and crowding one another–is in the data. It’s compelling–and yet nothing new.
The population of the United States is 331.5 million. By the latest count, 648,000 have died from COVID-19. That’s one death for every 512 residents.The population of Clark County, home to Las Vegas, is 2.35 million. According to official statistics, 5,265 have died of the illness. That’s one death for every 446 residents.
A lower ratio means things are worse. So the per-capita death rate in Las Vegas is 13% worse than the national rate. Back in March, when I wrote about this, the Las Vegas rate was 7% worse than the national rate. So the trend here is definitely moving in a bad direction.
Clark County has 0.7% of the national population. But there have been some days where the county (the official definition of the Las Vegas metro area) has accounted for nearly 8% of the total deaths nationally. That’s upwards of 10 times the national per-capita rate. Also not good.
Nationally, 53.6% of all people eligible to get a shot have been fully vaccinated. But the figure here in Clark County is only 45.1%. That’s 16% worse, in a place where, after a bumpy rollout, the free vaccine is widely available, often with no appointment needed and no wait. By my count, there are at least eight places to get vaccinated just within a two-mile radius of the New To Las Vegas world headquarters.
About the best I can say for the local performance during the current pandemic is that it’s the same old story. You see, Las Vegas also did significantly worse–actually much worse–that the country during the famous Spanish Flu epidemic starting more than a century ago in 1918.
I presented that data in a post early last year, just a month into the national shutdown. The country’s population in 1920, the year the Spanish flu pandemic finally petered out, was 107 million. During the two years that the Spanish flu ravaged the world, 675,000 persons died from it in the U.S. With no vaccine available, that worked out to one death for every 159 residents.
The population of Clark County, then a rural, fledgling Mojave Desert backwater created and nurtured by the young railroad line from the port of Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, was only 4,859. But authorities said 40 people died of the Spanish flu. The math here: one death for every 121 residents.
Remember, a lower figure is bad news. The death rate in Clark County was 24% worse than the national rate.
So far, as I noted earlier, the Clark County per-capita death rate in the current pandemic is “only” 13% worse than the country’s. But if Las Vegas keeps recording more than its share of daily COVID-19 deaths, that cumulative performance gap is going to keep getting worse, and might approach the Spanish flu numbers. There’s only so much that the Las Vegas tourism image-makers can cover up.
Sure, there are places in the U.S.–I’m looking at you, Mississippi and Alabama–that have lower vaccination and higher per-capita death rates than Las Vegas. But the Las Vegas economy is utterly dependent on getting people from around the U.S. and indeed the world to come here with confidence and spend, spend, spend (often against their better interests). The visitors don’t have to travel, which is why tourism is still off from the pre-Covid-19 salad days of 2019.
That also is probably a major factor why Las Vegas still has the nation’s highest unemployment rate among major metros, 9.4%. The national unemployment rate: 5.2%, nearly half that.
Happy Labor Day, Las Vegas.