Covid-19 and Security Theatre

I was walking through the casino at Binion’s on Fremont Street, Las Vegas last weekend, and I couldn’t help think about an old friend.

Dana Epp, one of the smartest people I know, and an IT security expert, introduced me to the term Security Theatre. I don’t remember how many years ago that was, but every time I see it, I think of him.

We are trying to prevent the continuing spread of the virus that has been more devastating to the global economy than anything I can point to in the past century. The fact that Las Vegas opened when it did is pretty amazing… it probably jumped the gun, and as we are seeing a tremendous spike in cases in states that have opened, Las Vegas will likely contribute to that… not in Nevada itself, as the vast majority of people walking around Las Vegas are from somewhere else.

There are plenty of measures in place around Vegas that are meant to control the spread of the virus… or at least give us the appearance of controlling the spread. All of the casino games are limited – three at a blackjack table instead of six, for example. All of the buffers are closed, which frankly was beneficial to me in more ways than the spread of the virus.

Sign in the casino at Binion’s

As a cigar smoker, I appreciate that they are giving me the opportunity to smoke my cigar at the tables and slot machines. As a logical person with a basic understanding of high school science, this absolutely baffles me. Have you ever walked through an area where people are smoking and smelled the smoke? Well if you can smell their smoke, you can catch their virus.

I remember joking back in March – before the pandemic, when the world was just becoming aware – that cigar smoking kills the virus. It was said as a joke, and I did not then (nor do I now) believe there is any scientific truth to the statement. I said it to a few people, and always laughed when I did. It was not until I was with someone in Havana that I realized that people will believe anything… as long as it fits their narrative.

Sitting at the hotel Nacional with some friends, one asked me for a cigar. ‘But you don’t smoke cigars??’ His reply astounded me. ‘No, but there are a lot of people here, and I don’t want to catch the virus.’ I nearly fell off my chair.

There are many basic principles to not catching (or transmitting) the virus. They are the same principles for not submitting the flu or the common cold. Wash your hands (with soap and warm water). Don’t shake hands. Do not breathe on people or breathe in their breath. The best ways? Stay home… and when you cannot stay home, wear a mask. If you want to learn more; listen to scientists, not politicians, IT professionals, or cigar sommeliers.

…And do you remember that point to wear a mask when you cannot stay home? Look up, it was near the end of the last paragraph. Yeah, right there. Wearing a mask does not mean part-time. When you are in public, wear your mask ALWAYS. You may need to drink… I get it, necessities of life and all that rot, especially in the desert where it is 117 degrees outside. However, smoking is NOT a necessity of life. Do not pull your mask down to smoke, no matter how good your cigar is. If you are outside it is one thing (although truly still not recommended). In a casino where there isn’t a window anywhere to be found, you are sharing every breath with everyone else in there… and the fact that some of the hotels and casinos take your temperatures when you walk in means nothing… asymptotic carriers will not have a fever.

Las Vegas is open, but the measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus are a joke. What do they care? All of the locals know to wear their masks religiously, and all of the gamblers are going home after the weekend to spread the virus in their own state.

I smoked cigars in Vegas; I smoked with my buddy Kelly on his patio, and I smoked walking outside. As for the casinos… I played, but I kept my mask on, thank you very much.

I may have lost some money, but I am still virus-free.

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