LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Clark County commissioners on Tuesday approved a mask mandate that applies to employees at all businesses in the county. The mandate goes into effect on Thursday at 12 a.m.

The requirement applies regardless of whether the employee is vaccinated, but is only in effect indoors “in public spaces at their place of work.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted his support Tuesday night:

The mandate stopped short of requiring masks for anyone out in public.

The Southern Nevada Health District on Friday recommended that everyone — vaccinated or not — should wear a mask in crowded indoor public settings. But as COVID-19 cases and test positivity continued to climb, commissioners saw they needed to put some force behind the recommendation.

Because businesses need a license to operate, the county has power over business owners to make sure the rule is followed.

According to a Clark County Facebook post, additional plans were passed after the hearing, including:

  • Event venues hosting gatherings of 250+ people will be required to submit COVID-19 mitigation plans for festivals and other large events
  • Local businesses will be asked to post new signage, asking patrons to follow Southern Nevada Health District guidance. SNHD recommends everyone wear masks in crowded indoor public places, where they may have contact with people who are not fully vaccinated.
  • A new push and renewed focus to increase the number of people getting their vaccine

Commissioners nearly put off the vote until Aug. 17, but passed the employee mask requirement and immediately set about continuing to work out the details in meetings that could happen on Thursday. The vote came nearly an hour after a presentation from SNHD Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cort Lohff.

He said that about 80% of the cases over the past few weeks are due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

Before Lohff’s presentation, there was an hour and a half of public comment. The meeting started nearly two hours after it was scheduled to start, angering many of the people who came to offer public comment.

And they let commissioners know it.

Jena Gifford, who sat through the delays before she could speak, said, “You can’t even manage a meeting properly and you want to tell me what to do.”

Public comment was dominated by statements, speeches and emotional pleas to the commission. Most implored commissioners to let people make their own decisions. Only three people offered support for a mask mandate. Speakers were allowed one minute to make their statements.

Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick at Tuesday’s meeting.

One woman said she lost her business.

Emily Palmer said La Petite Cafe closed during the pandemic, and she wanted commissioners’ full attention, asking them to put their phones down before she would start talking.

“Make it a choice, please! I can’t do this another year,” Palmer said, her voice filled with emotion. As she neared the end of the statement, she said, “How much more? I’ve lost everything.”

Commissioners Tick Segerblom and Justin Jones emphasized that any mask mandate was only a half step, and Lohff agreed with something Segerblom said.

“The ultimate solution — getting the community vaccinated — that is correct,” Lohff said.

The employee mask mandate was partly driven by pressure from the convention industry, which has only started to come back to life. As news of the COVID problem in Las Vegas became widely known, conventions scheduled to come to Las Vegas have started to ask questions about what is being done to get things under control.

Commissioner Jim Gibson pointed out that the midweek business provided by conventions is something Las Vegas can’t afford to lose again.

The county’s COVID test positivity rate hit 13.8% on Tuesday, as cases and hospitalizations soared over the weekend. Data released Tuesday showed 889 new COVID-19 cases in Clark County.