Tribal Government & News

Tribal government makes masking optional for most employees, guests beginning March 11

03.07.2022 Dean Rhodes COVID-19, Tribal employees


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

General Manager David Fullerton announced on Monday, March 7, that mask wearing for Tribal governmental employees and guests will be optional as of Friday, March 11.

March 11 is the two-year anniversary of the Tribe announcing its first event cancellation because of the COVID-19 pandemic – the 2020 Agency Creek Round Dance.

Fullerton’s announcement beats the state of Oregon dropping its indoor mask mandate by one day.

“For over two years, COVID-19 has impacted our day-to-day life,” Fullerton wrote in an all-employee e-mail. “In recent weeks, we have seen those impacts on our community and state decrease significantly and we are taking the first steps to ease the Tribe’s COVID-19 restrictions.”

Some programs, such as Health & Wellness and Education, will keep the mask mandates in place for staff and visitors, Fullerton said.

According to, the Tribe was monitoring 12 COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 25, a substantial decrease from the high of more than 50 cases only a few weeks earlier.

In updated guidance released Monday, Feb. 28, the Oregon Health Authority announced that Oregon would lift mask requirements for indoor public places and schools by Saturday, March 12, citing projected hospitalizations to reach levels below those at the start of the Omicron surge.

Originally, the Health Authority had projected March 31 as the end date for the statewide mask rule. Then, it was moved to March 19. The March 12 date aligns with mask requirements lifting in California and Washington.

Spirit Mountain Casino General Manager Bruce Thomas said during a Wednesday, Feb. 23, Facebook Live event that he was authorized by the Grand Ronde Gaming Commission to follow state rules regarding mask wearing within the facility.

“As we begin to ease the restrictions,” Fullerton added, “we will also start opening the campus to the membership and guests. Department managers are currently developing protocols for their specific area to minimize exposure and ensure safety for everyone. Updates for individual building protocols will be updated on social media and I encourage everyone to call before visiting.”

Fullerton was given the responsibility to oversee the Tribe’s response to the pandemic and use Tribal resources to respond and recover from its effects in March 2020 when Tribal Council approved the Tribe’s first-ever State of Emergency declaration, which is still in effect.

“While we are hopeful that additional COVID-19 restrictions will also be lifted, we are continuing to monitor the situation here and across the state,” Fullerton added. “As the situation changes, additional decisions will be made.”