Casinos in the U.S. are having a difficult time crawling out from under the COVID-19 rock. States began to relax shutdown measures this past summer when they believed they had figured out how to keep the coronavirus from spreading, but spikes started appearing everywhere that forced a lot of commercial activity once again to be halted. Casinos in several states reduced their hours of operations in an effort to avoid a complete shutdown, but the recent decision by Michigan to force its Detroit gambling properties to take a complete break may have been a prelude of what’s to come. Illinois has now followed suit, and casinos in the state will have to halt operations beginning this Friday.
According to the latest figures, Illinois has seen 12,601 new daily confirmed and probably COVID-19 cases, a trend that has been seen for the past 12 days. The state has reported a total of just under 600,000 since the coronavirus pandemic began, and the recent return of the virus is forcing Governor J.B. Pritzker to take action. Casinos, gaming centers and indoor sports centers will close for two weeks starting this Friday, with evaluations taken at the end of the period to determine whether or not to keep the measures in place. Gatherings at locations such as meeting rooms, party rooms, country clubs, etc., are also forbidden – just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26.
Following the 14-day period, changes could be seen only if a region sees a seven-day average COVID—19 positivity rate of under 12% for three consecutive days. COVID-19-related hospitalizations for seven out of the previous ten days will also need to be on the downturn, and hospitals will also need to have at least 20% availability in their intensive care units and hospital beds for three consecutive days. If any of the three requirements isn’t met, the new policies will remain intact.
If Pritzker’s prediction is correct, the chances of seeing the shutdown reversed are pretty slim. During his daily coronavirus briefing yesterday, he said, “We will continue to see a rise in both hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 for weeks ahead because of the infections that have already happened. But we can change our longer-term outcome. We can save potentially thousands of lives in the next few months if we make changes right now to stop this in its tracks.”
Casinos don’t appear to be a harbinger of COVID-19 infections, despite what some may believe. According to data compiled by the Illinois Department of Public Health, 23 people diagnosed with the virus acknowledged having visited a casino within 14 days prior to their positive test. That figure was based on analysis of a 30-day window that closed last Friday and, during the same window, over 2,000 people acknowledged visits to schools, retail stores, restaurants, bars and hospitals before their coronavirus diagnosis. The 2,000 figure was for each of the categories – not all of them combined. That puts casinos as number 41 on the list of locations where individuals are most likely to contract the virus.