(CNN) – As a giant clock counted down to 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the crowd cheered for the full reopening of downtown Las Vegas for the first time in more than a year, with live music and no face masks or physical distancing.
“This is a pretty historic night in Las Vegas history,” an announcer said over a loudspeaker to a mostly maskless crowd.
And moments later, the crowd moved to a Las Vegas band’s version of a Foo Fighters song, the first live music there in more than a year: new, ”sang the band.
Companies can now open at full capacity, without restrictions due to covid-19.
It was also the first vacation in more than a year for some of the people CNN spoke to.
“It’s really exciting,” said Pam Turner, who was there from Shelby, North Carolina. “It feels great,” he said of his first break since the pandemic began.
“You just have to see it to believe it,” said Turner’s mother, Diana Rollins. “It’s really fun to see all these people doing their thing.”
With vaccinations reducing new covid-19 infections, the city is betting heavily on people following the rules and wearing masks and keeping their distance if they are not vaccinated.
After the opening celebration Monday night, the city’s casinos began removing Plexiglas dividers that kept customers separate at slot machines and other gaming stations.
The vaccines, in any case, are providing a much-needed economic injection into the arm of the city that relies heavily on tourism. The unemployment rate in Las Vegas rose to 34% in April 2020, one of the worst rates in the country, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It’s been more difficult in Las Vegas than probably any city in the United States,” said Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau (LVCVA) President Steve Hill.
The Venetian Resort has sold its convention space for the last seven months of this year, according to CEO George Markantonis.
For the first time in more than a year, the US registers a daily average of less than 20,000 new cases of covid-19
“We have normal pre-pandemic business from mid-year to the end of the year,” said the CEO.
Hotels are 80% occupied on weekends now, and about 50% on other days, Hill said.
“We need meetings and conventions to improve again” that 50%, he said.
Next week, LVCVA will debut its nearly $ 1 billion expansion of the city’s Convention Center when it hosts the country’s first major trade show since the pandemic began.
With tens of thousands in attendance, it will be “the first of what we call a city-wide event in America,” Hill said.
The reopening of Las Vegas is just one of many signs that Americans feel like they are viewing the pandemic through a rearview mirror. U.S. airports were the busiest in over a year on Memorial Day weekend, according to numbers from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). ).
The Indianapolis 500, last Sunday, was listed as the sporting event with the highest attendance since the start of the pandemic. The 135,000 available tickets, roughly 40% of the Indiana racetrack’s capacity, were quickly sold out, according to organizers.
People flocked to the beaches and restaurants over the long weekend, and viewers seemed to be heading back to theaters. “A Quiet Place Part II,” a horror film, had the pandemic’s largest opening weekend yet, grossing $ 48.3 million in North America for its three-day opening over the weekend. Memorial Day.
But experts worry that not everyone will follow the rules of wearing a mask and staying physically distanced if they are not vaccinated.
“The challenge is getting people to actually wear their masks if they haven’t been vaccinated,” said Dr. Brian Labus of Public Health at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “He’s on the honor system, and we have a lot of people coming to town who are on their first vacation in a year and a half.”
“Every time large groups of people get together, there is the possibility of disease transmission,” Labus said. “When you add that to behaviors that are probably not the best for people’s health, when they are on vacation and partying, it is challenging to try to control disease. Therefore, we could have a potential spread among our tourist population.
As of Sunday, nearly 41% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than 50% had at least one dose of vaccine. But the percentages fluctuate wildly across the country, with southern states and most western states lagging behind; in the northeast and west coast, and Nevada behind California to the west, and Oregon and Washington to the north.
According to a study in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, removing coronavirus precautions could still lead to an increase in the spread of covid-19, even if the majority of the population is vaccinated.
Using a mathematical model to simulate the spread of the virus among North Carolina’s roughly 10 million people, the researchers found that COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths would continue to rise if pandemic precautions such as quarantine were removed, school closings, physical distancing and the use of masks while vaccines are being deployed.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.