The Wildhorse Resort and Casino was preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary when word of a presumptive case of the coronavirus hit the facility, owned and operated by he Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon. Photo: Wildhorse Resort

Umatilla Tribes shut down casino and takes precautions as coronavirus hits Indian Country

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are conducting a "deep cleaning" of their casino and canceling all public events after an employee became the latest case of the coronavirus in Oregon.

The employee of the Wildhorse Resort and Casino is considered "presumptive positive" for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), tribal leaders said in a press release on Monday. The incident marks the first known case in Indian Country.

"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. Wildhorse Resort and Casino will be temporarily closed in order to sanitize the facilities," the press release stated. "Closures will take effect at 12:00 PM March 2, 2020. In addition, all community events on the Umatilla Indian Reservation are cancelled for the week of March 2 to 8, 2020."

In an abundance of caution, Wildhorse Resort & Casino will close immediately to complete a thorough and deep cleaning as...

Posted by Wildhorse Resort & Casino on Monday, March 2, 2020

The patient is an Oregon resident, the state health agency said on Monday. The employee attended a youth basketball game at Weston Middle School in Weston -- less than 20 miles from Wildhorse -- on Saturday before being identified as being presumptive positive for the coronavirus .

"The third case is not linked to travel to a part of the world with known cases of COVID-19," the Oregon Health Authority said in describing the unusual nature of the incident. Most prior cases in the United States involved people who had been to China, where the coronavirus first emerged, or to countries where the COVID-19 has spread rapidly.

"It is considered a case of community transmission," the agency said.

PRESS RELEASE For immediate release: March 2, 2020 Contact: Chuck Sams, (541) 215-9666 Presumptive Coronavirus...

Posted by Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation on Monday, March 2, 2020

Neither the state, nor the tribe, said whether the employee had been to work in recent days. But Wildhorse said it was shutting down "immediately" -- with no word of when it might reopen as the casino was getting ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

"In an abundance of caution, Wildhorse Resort & Casino will close immediately to complete a thorough and deep cleaning as a response to reports of a presumptive positive case of Covid-19," a post on social media read.

"The closure includes the casino, convention center, hotel, Cineplex, Children's Entertainment Center, and restaurants," the facility said, directing patrons to watch for updates on "All activities are cancelled including casino promotions and events until further notice."

With three cases in Oregon, at least 21 cases in neighboring Washington, where six people have died as of Monday afternoon, and at least 40 cases in California, the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast appear to be at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. The three states are home to more than 130 tribes, with California boasting the largest population of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the country.

California is also the largest Indian gaming market in the U.S. But tribal facilities do not appear to have been affected by the cases in the state, where Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has declined to declare an emergency.

Oregon is home to 10 federally recognized tribes. Their reservations are spread throughout the state, the Umatilla located in the northeastern region, not far from the border with Washington.

“State and local health professionals are working around the clock to identify, treat, and contain each case of this disease," Gov. Kate Brown (D) said on Monday shortly before the third case was announced. "My commitment to Oregonians is that our state agencies will be as accurate, transparent, and swift as possible in conveying the information we have to the public, especially when new cases of the coronavirus are identified."

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has declared a state of emergency. The state is home to 29 federally recognized tribes, many with homelands in the heavily populated area around Seattle, where the majority of coronavirus cases have been identified.

"This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state," Inslee said in declaring an emergency on Saturday.

In its press release, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation outlined ways to prevent the spread of the disease. The same methods are used to combat the flu and the common cold:

• Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

• Avoid contact with people who are sick

• Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others by not attending large events

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing

Read More on the Story
Oregon tribal employee 'presumptive' positive for COVID-19 (Indian Country Today March 2, 2020)
Third 'presumptive positive' case of COVID-19 in Oregon is from Umatilla County (The Henniston Herald March 2, 2020)
Coronavirus identified in Umatilla County (The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin March 2, 2020)
Oregon Health Officials Confirm 3rd Presumed Coronavirus Case (Oregon Public Broadcasting March 2, 2020)
Wildhorse casino closes after employee tests positive for coronavirus (The Tri-City Herald March 2, 2020)
Patient with presumptive case of COVID-19 works at Wildhorse Resort and Casino, officials say (KAPP-TV / KVEW-TV March 2, 2020)
3rd presumptive coronavirus case in Oregon: Worked at Wildhorse Casino, attended youth basketball game (KGW March 2, 2020)
Pendleton casino worker is Oregon’s third presumptive COVID-19 case (KTVZ March 2, 2020)
3rd Oregon coronavirus patient is casino worker who attended youth basketball game in Umatilla County (The Oregonian March 2, 2020)
Eastern Oregon Casino Resort Closed Due To Coronavirus (KXL March 2, 2020)
Oregon's third presumptive case of COVID-19 coronavirus: Person works at Wildhorse Resort & Casino (KPTV March 2, 2020)
Wildhorse casino worker in Oregon tests positive for novel coronavirus (The Yakima Herald-Republic March 2, 2020)
Oregon identifies third presumptive positive case of COVID-19 (The East Oregonian March 2, 2020)

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