Due to county guidelines in response to a spike in coronavirus cases, players and staff in Los Angeles poker rooms are now required to wear face masks at all times while indoors. The news comes just one month after the card rooms were permitted to drop all COVID-19 restrictions for the first time since March 2020.
The restored mask mandate, which includes all businesses in Los Angeles County, began Saturday. As of now, the requirement is for masks to be worn indoors; outside venues and businesses aren’t subject to the countywide mandate. That means if you’re seated at an outdoor bar sipping on a cocktail, you don’t have to wear a mask, although many health experts recommend wearing one in public except when eating or drinking.
Given that the six LA-area cardrooms are all indoor establishments, poker players can’t avoid wearing a face-covering during play.
A fluid situation
It’s been a bumpy 16 months for the six Los Angeles poker rooms. In March 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom forced the casinos to close down temporarily. They weren’t permitted to reopen until the summer of 2020, and then were ordered to close down again in November due to another coronavirus spike.
In January 2021, Newsom once again gave the card rooms permission to reopen, but only if they operated outdoors. Each casino created a makeshift poker room using giant, climate-controlled tents, which they used for about six months before the Democratic governor allowed the poker rooms to return to indoor operations.
All restrictions were finally lifted on June 15, and the card rooms could, for the first time since March 2020, operate like they did before the pandemic, and at full capacity. Now, just one month later, the Los Angeles poker rooms are again headed backwards.
What’s the deal?
The return of COVID-19 restrictions in LA is due to a spike in coronavirus cases and concerns with a newer, deadlier Delta variant.
On Sunday, the county recorded 1,635 new cases and 507 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, both alarming numbers considering nearly 52% of California’s population is fully vaccinated. Even worse, the county is again averaging around 10,000 new cases per week, the most since March when only a small portion of the population was vaccinated, according to data pulled from the LA county website.
When Newsom eliminated most pandemic restrictions on June 15, LA county was averaging around 12 weekly cases per 100,000 residents. Over the past two weeks, the average is up to just over 100. The biggest concern right now in Southern California is the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which health experts claim is twice as deadly as the original COVID-19 virus, and as much as 225% more contagious, per scientists interviewed by NPR radio.
In Los Angeles, the Delta variant is becoming the predominant COVID-19 strain in circulation. The same can be said for Las Vegas, which is set to host the World Series of Poker beginning on Sept. 30. At present, face masks aren’t required in Nevada, but if cases continue to spike, don’t count on a maskless WSOP.