The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in northeastern Oregon have shut down their Wildhorse Casino and several other properties Monday after a casino employee contracted coronavirus. The employee is the third recorded case of coronavirus in Oregon.
Source of Infection Unknown
The man who worked as a casino custodian attended a basketball game at Weston Middle School, and was later taken to a hospital in Walla Walla, Washington, just over the Oregon border. The school gym has been closed for deep cleaning, though state health officials say people who attended the game have a low risk of exposure to the virus. Weston Middle School has 250 students in grades four through eight.
The exact source of the casino employee’s infection remains unknown, as he has not traveled to any infected countries or had any contact with known infected people. The health department is treating the case as a “community transmission” due to the unknown origin of his infection. Oregon state health officer and epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger explained the situation during an interview with 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,” Sidelinger stated.
The Umatilla Reservation covers 172,000 acres and is home to around 3,000 people, and 30,000 people live within a 50-mile radius of the reservation. All community events on the reservation have been canceled in light of the casino employee’s infection, and all public buildings have been closed for cleaning. The Wildhorse Casino, an education facility, and the tribal elders community center have been shut down for disinfection.
The communications director for the confederated tribes, Chuck Sams, said the tribe was informed Monday morning by Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Health Authority Officials of the infected employee. Sams said the infected employee worked in a confined area of the casino and did not come in contact with casino patrons, which number about 4,200 a day. However, the casino was closed and cleaned as a precaution.
The health authority is working with tribal officials to help trace the source of the casino employee’s infection, hoping to identify the cause and take appropriate action. Meanwhile, they are advising people to report any signs of sudden illness to healthcare workers and to self-quarantine if they are seriously ill.
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