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Major Las Vegas construction expo to proceed as planned, albeit a sanitized version

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau

Attendees are shown at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tue, Mar 3, 2020 (2 a.m.)

When attendees arrive at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG construction trade show in Las Vegas this month, they’ll receive “no handshake” buttons and be greeted by signage emphasizing best hygiene practices.

Amid worldwide concern over the spread of coronavirus, the convention — one of the best-attended of the year — will go on with protections in place March 10-14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Las Vegas Festival Grounds.

Show officials are coordinating for the event to staffed by extra cleaning crews to keep common areas sanitized and for multiple hand-sanitizing stations to be installed.

Also, a “small number” of Chinese registrants will not attend the show because of travel restrictions put into place by President Donald Trump banning foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled in China within the past two weeks to enter the country.

“We expect to have over 130,000 and we’re talking about less than 1% of that,” said Dana Wuesthoff, the show director for CONEXPO-CON/AGG. “We’re here in Las Vegas now preparing to have a great show. We’re aware of what’s happening and we’re in contact with our partners at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Southern Nevada Health District. We have precautions in place and we’re proceeding as planned.”

Nevada hasn’t had any reported cases of the coronavirus, the respiratory illness that originated in China. But the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has climbed to six, all in Washington state. The global death toll recently eclipsed the 3,000 mark, according to reports, with close to 90,000 infected around the world, including fast-expanding outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran.

But the area’s tourism industry has seen at least two high-profile shows canceled. Organizers from Adobe Summit 2020 said Monday that its event March 29-April 2 at the Venetian would be held only online. The summit was supposed to bring about 20,000 attendees to town, according to the visitors authority.

“We made the difficult but important decision to make Adobe Summit 2020 an online event this year and to cancel the live event in Las Vegas,” Adobe spokesman Stefan Offermann said in an email.

Last week, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations event was postponed by the Trump administration due to concern about the spread of coronavirus. Trump would have met with leaders of the 10 ASEAN member nations —Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Myanmar and Laos — at the summit.

Google, according to a spokeswoman, said the company recently decided to cancel an “internal event” for “thousands of employees” that had been slated to take place in Las Vegas.

When asked when and where the event was scheduled for, the spokeswoman did not immediately respond on Monday.

The LVCVA estimates that in 2018 the average visitor spent more than $1,044 per visit, which includes about $315 for food and drinks; $74 for local transportation; $155 on shopping, shows and sightseeing; and about $500 on lodging. In addition, an estimated 74% of those who visited Las Vegas in 2018 spent time gambling; the average gambler that year spent about $527. Take away about 20,000 from town for one convention, and that’s a significant blow to the area’s economy. Eight-percent of the city’s 42 million visitors came for a convention or corporate meeting.

And it’s not just in Las Vegas. In neighboring California, organizers of the annual Game Developers Conference, which had been scheduled to take place this month in San Francisco, was canceled because of worry about coronavirus spread.

Becky Harris, an academic fellow at UNLV’s International Center for Gaming Regulation and former chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said it’s a waiting game at this point to see how far and wide the virus spreads and how it might affect Las Vegas, an area that depends on tourism.

“If there were to be a coronavirus outbreak in Southern Nevada, that would potentially have serious consequences for the economy here,” Harris said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens and how this unfolds.”

But many conventions are going off without a hitch.

A spokesman for American Frozen Foods Institute said the organization’s four-day conference at Cosmopolitan, which wraps up today, has gone smoothly. “We put some measures in place around sanitation, and our members responded positively to that,” the spokesman wrote in an email.

Tim McLucas of Questex, the events company behind the Nightclub & Bar Show scheduled to begin at the Las Vegas Convention Center on March 30, said no cancellations had been received as of Monday.

“Questex continues to monitor COVID-19 (coronavirus) updates on an hourly basis,” he said in an email. “We will continue to rely on experts in the field like the Department of Health and the World Health Organization as well as safety measures established by the venue. We will follow their advice to keep all participants safe.”

Erica Johnson, a spokeswoman for the LVCVA, said organizers of the National Automobile Dealers Association Show, which took place Feb. 14-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, said they did not see any coronavirus impact.

Gaming companies with properties on the Strip remained mostly quiet on the coronavirus subject Monday. An MGM spokeswoman said in an email that the company had nothing new to share, while a Caesars representative said the company has not been affected.

“There is no impact on Caesars business related to COVID-19,” Caesars spokesman Richard Broome said.

A Wynn spokesman said the company is working with a consulting epidemiologist to help place an emphasis on prevention.

The company is also working with on-call physicians who are available to consult with any guests who don’t feel well. Wynn has also instituted a mandatory “stay-at-home” policy for employees who are not feeling well.

It’s a similar message for groups hosting conventions. The well-being of attendees, officials say, is paramount.

“We encourage exhibitors and attendees to take common-sense precautions by using hand sanitizer and following CDC guidelines,” Wuesthoff said. “Instead of shaking hands, maybe people can bump elbows or something like that. We’re committed to doing everything necessary to host a safe and successful show. We’re putting attendee and exhibitor health, safety and comfort at the forefront.”

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