Tribal Government & News

Tribal government moves into third phase of re-opening on March 10


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

The Grand Ronde Tribal government officially moved into its third phase of re-opening on Wednesday, March 10, said Human Resources Director Camille Mercier.

Phase 3 is a modification of employee restrictions, a continuation of limited public access to government campus facilities, allowing limited on-site meetings and visitors, and limited programming.

The Tribe closed to all but “essential” employees in mid-March 2020. It re-opened to most employees in May, but employees were required to undergo temperature checks, wear masks and keep socially distant from colleagues.

Mercier said the move to Phase 3 has been prompted by a variety of factors, including the Tribe being able to obtain sufficient personal protection equipment and testing supplies, and there being adequate contact tracing procedures in place.

Other factors contributing to the increased re-opening include the availability of vaccines and that more than 50 percent of Tribal government staff members have been vaccinated. More than 90 percent of the Tribal Health & Wellness Center staff members have been vaccinated, she added.

The Tribe started delivering the two-dose Moderna vaccine in late December and has vaccinated more than 5,800 people since then.

Finally, the Tribal government staff and community are currently negative for COVID-19 cases.

The relaxed rules will allow more than one employee to occupy common areas as long as masks are worn and physical distancing is observed. Employees also can meet in person following the same requirements. Daily temperature checks will remain for the foreseeable future.

There also will be a partial opening of department programs and services, but visits must be scheduled and employees and external guests must wear protective masks.

Finally, outside gatherings and sports and recreational activities are allowed with a maximum of 50 participants and social distancing guidelines must be followed. Big Buck campground, however, will remain closed.

“Our organization, community and nation are moving in the right direction,” Mercier said. “However, we are still monitoring the situation carefully to keep you, the workplace and our community healthy and safe.”

She warned that if demand for testing supplies outstrips availability or COVID-19 cases start affecting Tribal staff, the re-opening could be scaled back to Phase 2 restrictions.

“While moving to Phase 3 is good news, we want to stress that it is not time to be careless with our interactions and precautions,” Mercier said. “Continue to wear your protective masks, sanitize car, home and workspaces, wash your hands frequently and socially distance at work and outside of the workplace.”

She also advised that receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory for employees and that Tribal staff should not put undue pressure on co-workers to be vaccinated.