Oregon casino forced to close over coronavirus concerns


A casino in Pendleton, Oregon has found itself obligated to shut its doors in the interest of public health. The Wildhorse Resort and Casino, which is operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and located on the tribes’ reservation, took the decision to temporarily halt activity after one of its employees was diagnosed with the coronavirus, Covid-19. As a result, all those who had come into contact with the individual were requested to put themselves in self-isolation for 14 days in an effort to determine whether or not they had been infected.

According to local media outlet KTVZ, the unidentified employee worked in a “confined area” in the casino and didn’t have much contact with the general public. It isn’t clear how he became infected with the virus that has already killed at least six people in the US, mostly in the northwest region of the country, and more than 3,000 around the world, and the individual’s case is being viewed as a case of “community transmission.” It is believed that the man had not traveled to any area that has shown signs of the coronavirus prior to his diagnosis.

In addition to having possibly exposed others at the casino, the man also attended a youth basketball game at an area school this past Saturday, forcing the gym to be temporarily closed while work is performed to clean it. Authorities don’t believe his presence at the game may be a concern, saying that he only represented a “low-risk” of exposure.

The native tribes have taken extra precautions to try to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread across the more than 172,000 acres of the reservation. They shut down virtually all community facilities, explaining on their Facebook page, “The Board of Trustees has ordered that Nixyaawii Community School, Head Start, Daycare and Senior Center to be closed until all facilities have been fully sanitized.”

There are now three coronavirus cases that have been identified in Oregon in a relatively short time span. According to Dean Sidelinger, a health officer and epidemiologist for the state, there could be more coming soon. He told the Associated Press, “With having three cases fairly quickly identified, two of which we can’t identify the specific source, that would indicate to us that this disease is circulating in our community and we will likely see additional cases.”

It isn’t yet clear if other casinos in the northwest US will take precautions and temporarily halt operations like what was recently seen in Macau and elsewhere. The coronavirus reportedly moves at a faster pace than what had been seen in China, and this could lead to shutdown orders if authorities feel that the disease continues to spread.