Tribal Government & News

Tribal government plans phased-in re-opening on Monday, May 18

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

The Grand Ronde Tribal government, partially closed since mid-March in reaction to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, will begin a cautious re-opening process on Monday, May 18.

However, things are going to be different, General Manager David Fullerton announced during a Wednesday, May 13, Facebook Live event.

Fullerton said the Tribe has increased its capacity for testing, contact tracing and personal protection equipment and no longer fears not having enough health care capacity to handle any coronavirus cases. So far, Grand Ronde has not reported any positive coronavirus tests among the 81 conducted as of May 13.

The first phase of re-opening will include requirements that employees wear masks while interacting in public with others, no walk-in visitors will be allowed on the Tribal campus and employees will be screened for possible fever before being allowed to work.

Tribal employees will be provided with masks and hand sanitizers as the re-opening process begins. Depending on the results, re-opening may progress to a second phase or be scaled back to a partial opening.

There also will be no loose documents allowed, handshakes will be discouraged and there will be no refreshments available for the public.

The Health & Wellness Clinic will be bringing back its dental and optometry services, but clinic patients will be required to wear masks inside the facility. Appointments are required and no walk-ins will be allowed, however.

The Tribal government went into a partial shutdown because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in mid-March during which only a small number of essential employees were allowed on campus to keep services available to Tribal members.

Tribal Council awarded governmental employees an extra 320 hours – eight weeks – and casino employees 400 hours -- 10 weeks -- of paid time off and kept paying employees at both the government and Spirit Mountain Casino through the closures.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that rural counties in the state could start re-opening on Friday, May 15, if they meet certain health care criteria.

There was no announcement of when Spirit Mountain Casino, the Tribe’s principal economic entity, will re-open. It has been completely shuttered since mid-March.

“That’s still under discussion,” Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said during the Facebook Live event. “A definite date, we do not have one.”