Bear River Casino Resort. | File photo.


Bear River Casino this afternoon issued a press release defending its health and safety precautions while acknowledging that an employee recently tested positive for COVID-19 after falling ill at work. Several other employees remain in quarantine after exposure to the infected coworker, but they’ve all tested negative, according to the statement.

The press release comes on the heels of a scoop by the Times-Standard‘s Shomik Mukherjee, who earlier today broke the news of the infected employee. The T-S story quotes anonymous casino employees who say they’re worried about their own health and safety and believe the casino should close down again to protect patrons during from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bear River Casino reopened on May 24 against the advice of public health officials, including Humboldt County Public Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich, who warned that large indoor gatherings pose an increased risk of viral transmission. Cher-Ae Heights Casino reopened that same weekend. The Blue Lake Casino reopened on July 12 but closed down again four days later,  saying tribal leadership was choosing “to do what’s best for employees and the community.” [Disclosure: The Blue Lake Rancheria is partial owner of Outpost parent company Lost Coast Communications, Inc.]

As sovereign nations, Native American tribes are not bound to comply with state and local health orders.

Here’s the press Bear River release:

As with all responsible businesses navigating the uncertain waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bear River Casino Resort has continuously monitored recommendations by the CDC and other government agencies. Above all else, we have attempted to institute far-reaching protocols for cleaning, distancing, sanitizing, and personal hygiene for our guests and team members alike. 

We have developed extensive cleaning and safety practices to provide a safe and fun environment for our friends and neighbors to enjoy and for our team members to be protected while working. We have sanitizing stations throughout the casino, hotel, and restaurants that are convenient and plentiful. We offer free access to PPE for all of our team members and provide masks and gloves to our guests who may require them. We take the temperature and record the ID of every guest that enters the property. Likewise, we take the temperature of every team member that arrives at work, before they can begin their shift. Between the IDs of guests, the electronic time clock records of our team, and temperature checks for all, our measures allow us to also be prepared to be effective partners with Humboldt County Public Health, should the need for contact tracing and testing arise.

Bear River Casino Resort is very proud of the work we’ve done in making our facility safe for both guests and team members.

In last two weeks, we had a team member who arrived at work as they normally would, sanitized their hands, and had their temperature scanned. Upon completing those protocols and showing no evidence of, or complaining of any other symptoms, this team member went to their work station and began their day. Later in the day, this team member indicated to their supervisor that they were not feeling well.

The supervisor asked about what symptoms were being experienced by the team member and upon hearing a description that included several [symptoms] that could possibly be COVID-related. The team member was asked to leave work and go to get tested. Human Resources was also immediately contacted and in turn, contacted Humboldt County Public Health to begin the contact tracing process. 

The team member remained away from work and two days later the results of the team member’s test revealed a positive result. Through the contact tracing process, it was determined by Public Health that several other team members had exposure that was significant enough to warrant a test. These team members were immediately asked to go get tested and did so. Based on Public Health’s recommendations, some of those who had exposure were asked to self-isolate for 14 days. With some others, Public Health determined that their exposure was not significant enough to indicate isolating. 

Through all of this, we have communicated with our team and been very intentional about the importance of continuing to be vigilant with our cleaning protocols and that we are truly all in this together. We have gotten all of the test results back for all of the team members identified by Public Health and all of the tests came back negative for COVID-19. Team members who were asked to self-isolate for 14 days are continuing to adhere to that mandate until its conclusion and they can return to work.

Bear River Casino Resort continues to focus on the health and safety of our team and our guests. Like everyone else, we look forward to the time when a more normal way of operating can continue. For now however, we are offering food to-go only from our Express Grille, no alcohol service, no smoking, and an abundance of PPE, sanitizing stations, and distancing protocols to go above and beyond to keep or team and guests safe.