Tribal Government & News

State's COVID 'freeze' will not affect Tribal operations

11.16.2020 Dean Rhodes Tribal government, Health & Wellness


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “freeze” to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the state that goes into effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18, will not affect Tribal governmental operations.

“We are aware of the governor’s latest ‘freeze’ to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon,” said Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez in an all-employee e-mail on Monday, Nov. 16. “After careful consideration, the Tribe has made the decision to maintain its current operations for the Tribal government.”

However, Hernandez added, Tribal employees who feel it is in their best interest to work remotely can do so with approval of their supervisor.

Working remotely, if possible, is one of Brown’s “freeze” suggestions for Oregonians.

Brown also is limiting all bars and restaurants to takeout only, closing all gyms, restricting indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than six people from two different households, limiting capacity at grocery stores and pharmacies, and allowing churches and faith groups to accommodate indoor crowds of no larger than 25.

The “freeze” is in reaction to surging COVID-19 cases in the state that suddenly jumped to more than 1,000 for three consecutive days. Fortunately, the numbers dipped to below 800 on Monday, Nov. 16.

General Manager David Fullerton announced on Thursday, Nov. 5, that two Tribal governmental employees for the first time had 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 are no longer allowed on the Tribal campus.

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 Monday, Nov. 16, it has conducted 1,048 COVID-19 tests with 1,014 negative results, 17 retests and 17 positive results.

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.

“We have done a great job keeping the virus contained, but we all must do our part to protect ourselves, family and co-workers from this virus,” Hernandez said. “Wash and sanitize your hands, wear masks and social distance. We are closely monitoring the situation and we will continue to evaluate if any changes need to be made.”

Oregon has recorded more than 55,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 750 deaths attributed to the virus.

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.

Meanwhile, Spirit Mountain Casino has announced a temporary suspension of smoking within the facility starting on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The smoking prohibition includes 20 feet from all entrances to the lodge, casino and lobbies.

The casino is still requiring that all guests wear face masks, which is a policy instituted in early July.

Since the Tribe is a sovereign nation, it does not have to follow state-mandated guidelines.