Tribal Government & News

Two positive COVID-19 cases affect Tribal government operations

11.12.2020 Dean Rhodes Tribal government, Health & Wellness


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

On a day when the Oregon Health Authority reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases in the state with 805, Tribal General Manager David Fullerton announced on Thursday, Nov. 5, that two Tribal governmental employees for the first time have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The two positive tests prompted Fullerton to limit campus access on Friday, Nov. 6, and Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 9-10, to only essential staff members. Other staff members were asked to work from home or granted administrative leave for the day.

Since Wednesday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day and a Tribal holiday, the Tribal government resumed normal schedules and operations on Thursday, Nov. 12, with the exception that guests were no longer allowed on the Tribal campus.

Fullerton added that the Tribe’s Facilities staff members would begin a deep cleaning of Tribal governmental facilities on Friday.

The two positive cases within the Tribal government, which employs more than 500 people, are not the first coronavirus cases to affect the Tribe.

Spirit Mountain Casino, which employs more than 1,000 people, reported four of its behind-the-scenes employees had tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-October.

According to the Grand Ronde Health & Wellness Center, as of Wednesday, Nov. 11, it has conducted 984 COVID-19 tests with 954 negative results, 16 retests and 14 positive results.

Fullerton said in his all-employee announcement that the Tribal clinic’s operations would not be not affected by his essential employee-only order.

The Tribe limited access to the Tribal campus to only essential employees in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic became a major public health concern in Oregon. After the Tribal government re-opened in mid-May, employees have had to undergo daily temperature checks, been asked to wear masks and encouraged to wash their hands frequently and keep socially distant.

“Although we are confident in our testing and contact tracing, we are going to limit campus access,” Fullerton said. “Please take all appropriate actions related to protecting yourself, family and co-workers from this virus. …  We have done a great job keeping the virus contained to this point, but for the next few days and weeks, it will be critical that we all do our part.”

The Tribe has kept the identities of any employees who contract COVID-19 confidential because of federal health privacy guidelines. The Tribe has consistently said that people who contract the coronavirus should be supported and cared for and not identified and possibly ostracized.

The Grand Ronde Tribal campus includes several buildings, including the Community Center, Employment Services building, Education building, Governance Center, Health & Wellness Center and the Natural Resources building off Hebo Road. Where the two employees worked has not been disclosed.

Oregon has recorded more than 47,839 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 740 deaths attributed to the virus.

Fullerton also announced that the Tribal government will be closed the entire week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 23-27. Tribal employees were already scheduled to have Monday, Nov. 23, off in celebration of Restoration and Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26-27, off in observance of Thanksgiving.

Tribal members should check the Tribe’s Facebook page for clinic and Pharmacy hours of operation during the Thanksgiving week.