- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Testing for the new coronavirus is due to start Thursday for the first of tens of thousands of Las Vegas casino employees being tapped for job callbacks before resorts reopen, according to a cooperative plan announced Tuesday by several casino companies and local tourism, hospital and union officials.

State gambling regulators have not given the go-ahead or a date for the lifting of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mid-March order closing all gambling establishments in Nevada to prevent groups from gathering and spreading coronavirus.

But some resorts are aiming for June 1 reopening, and officials said testing will start with scheduled appointments for notified employees at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Employees will not be charged a fee.

The goal is to collect up to 4,000 test samples for the COVID-19 illness per day, officials said. Results are expected within 48 hours, and employees who test positive will be referred to the Southern Nevada Health District for contact tracing.

Costs for the testing were not disclosed in a joint announcement by MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming, University Medical Center, the Culinary Union Health Fund and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“COVID-19 testing ensures that Culinary Union members are safe when they return to work,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, union secretary-treasurer. She called the health and safety of employees and guests the top priority.

MGM Resorts and Caesars own most of the hotel properties on the Las Vegas Strip, which has more than 150,000 hotel rooms. Each company furloughed more than 60,000 employees in March.

University Medical Center CEO Mason VanHouweling credited efforts of a task force of Nevada business leaders led by former MGM Resorts executive Jim Murren with helping marshal resources to boost testing capacity.

Murren has called virus testing essential in restarting the state economy and recently told The Associated Press that he hoped authorities would be able to process 30,000 tests a day by June 1.

Caesars chief executive Tony Rodio said his company’s employees will complete a questionnaire to determine their need for a COVID-19 test.

State health officials on Tuesday reported more than 7,000 positive cases of COVID-19, and 365 deaths.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

In other developments:

- The state’s former emergency manager has been named to oversee programs including COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Gov. Sisolak on Monday cited Caleb Cage’s experience at the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and more recently as an executive at the Nevada System of Higher Education. Cage will be responsible for coordinating Nevada’s “federally supported, state managed and locally executed” response to the coronavirus pandemic, the governor said.

- Nevada’s state-run health insurance marketplace added more than 6,000 people during a two-month window for those who lacked coverage but had not signed up during open enrollment last fall, officials said Tuesday. Silver State Health Insurance Exchange said the special enrollment period drew an almost 8% jump in Nevada Health Link membership compared with the 77,000 people who signed up during open enrollment last fall. Sisolak opened the special window March 17. It closed Friday.

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