(CNN) – With a giant clock counting down to 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the crowd cheered 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 beautiful historic night in the history of Las Vegas,” one announcer said over a megaphone in front of a crowd of people without masks.
Moments later, the audience moved to the beat of the Las Vegas band’s release of Foo Fighters, their first live music there in over a year: “It’s times like these when you learn to live in a new style,” the band sang.
Businesses can now open their doors at full capacity, without restrictions due to the coronavirus.
It was also the first leave in over 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 do what they want.”
With vaccinations reducing new COVID-19 infections, the city is betting big that people follow the rules, wear masks and stay away if they aren’t vaccinated.
After the opening ceremony on Monday night, the city’s casinos began removing plexiglass dividers that kept customers separate at slot machines and other gaming stations.
In any case, vaccinations provide a much-needed economic injection into the arm of a 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 Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Venetian Resort sold its conference space during the last seven months of this year, according to CEO Jorge Marcantonis.
For the first time in more than a year, the United States reports a daily average of less than 20,000 new cases of COVID-19
“We have normal business before the pandemic from mid-year to year-end,” the CEO said.
Hill said hotels are now 80% occupied on weekends, and about 50% on other days.
“We need meetings and agreements to improve again” by 50%, he said.
Next week, LVCVA will launch its nearly $1 billion expansion of the city’s convention center when it hosts the nation’s first major trade fair since the pandemic began.
With tens of thousands in attendance, Hill said, it would be “the first of what we would call a citywide event in America.”
The reopening of Las Vegas is just one of the many signs Americans feel they are watching the pandemic through their rear-view mirror. US airports were the busiest in more than a year on Memorial Day weekend, according to figures from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The Indianapolis 500 was listed, last Sunday, as the sporting event with the highest attendance since the start of the pandemic. The 135,000 available tickets, nearly 40% of the Indiana racetrack’s capacity, were sold out quickly, according to organizers.
People flocked to beaches and restaurants over the long weekend, and it seemed like spectators were returning to theaters. A Quiet Place Part II horror movie had the biggest opening weekend for the pandemic yet, grossing $48.3 million in North America for its three-day opening weekend. Memorial Day.
But experts are concerned that not everyone will follow the rules for wearing a mask and staying physically apart if they are not vaccinated.
“The challenge is to actually get people to wear their masks if they are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Brian Lapus of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. “He’s on the honors system, and we’ve got a lot of people coming into town who are on their first vacation in a year and a half.”
“Whenever large groups of people get together, there is a potential for 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 or partying, it is difficult to try to control the disease. So, we could have a potential spread among our tourist population.
As of Sunday, nearly 41% of the entire US population has been fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Center for Disease Control), and more than 50% had received at least one dose of the vaccine. But the proportions fluctuate wildly across the country, with southern states and most western states lagging far behind. In the northeast and west coasts, Nevada behind California to the west, and Oregon and Washington to the north.
According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, removing coronavirus precautions could lead to an increased spread of coronavirus, even if the majority of the population is vaccinated.
Using a mathematical model to simulate the spread of the virus among nearly 10 million people in North Carolina, researchers found that COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths would continue to rise if epidemiological precautions such as quarantines were removed. Use masks while spreading vaccines.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Pete Montaigne, and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.