LAS VEGAS, Nevada: The Covid-weary public are beginning to return to the casinos of Las Vegas.
Very low airfares and inexpensive hotel stays are drawing the locked-down public, with air tickets as low as $100 and hotels offering room rates as low as $50 per night.
"How could I turn that down?" 39-year-old electrician Mike Anger from Midland, Michigan asked, as quoted by Associated Press.
Las Vegas crowds are quickly returning. Casinos have been allowed to admit 80 percent capacity, and social distancing has been reduced from six to three feet. Face masks are still required.
"People were just yearning to go someplace and let loose," said Alan Feldman, a fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Associated Press.
A large percentage of the returnees are those over age 60 who have been vaccinated.
Observers noted that pent-up demand, inexpensive hotel rooms, and the government's $1,400 pandemic recovery checks have added to the incentives to visit Las Vegas.
"People are feeling more comfortable traveling as science appears to be getting ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Jeremy Aguero, an analyst at Applied Analysis in Las Vegas.
"Late spring and early summer tend to be strong months for traditional, domestic leisure travel," Aguero added, according to The Associated Press.
As a measure of the recovery, casino winnings in Nevada were over $1 billion in March, the best monthly total in eight years.
Further, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has announced that there were more than 2.2 million visitors in March.
While that number was down 40 percent from March 2019, it remains an impressive increase from one year earlier. Further, Nevada's jobless rate in April 2020 was over 30 percent and has now fallen to 8.1 percent.
Commenting on the traffic jam coming from California into Nevada, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka said, "You have visitors coming throughout the week, all leaving at the same time.It's very busy every Sunday," as quoted by the Associated Press.
Carlo Santarelli from Deutsche Bank Securities said Las Vegas occupancy "really accelerated in March, driven by increased vaccinations, spring break, and March Madness," the NCAA basketball championship tournaments.
"It's pool season, better weather," said Lori Nelson-Kraft, spokeswoman for the Convention and Visitors Authority. "It's still cold in the Midwest and Northeast."
Restaurants now allow 80 percent occupancy, accept walk-in diners and seat tables of 12. Buffets can allow self-service when supervised by restaurant employees.
Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, plans to allow 100 percent casino and business occupancy after 60 percent of its 1.8 million eligible residents receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Nevada's governor has said he will lift nearly all restrictions on June 1, though wearing face masks will continue.