San Diego County Investigating COVID-19 Cases Possibly Linked to Casinos

The county said that, as of Wednesday, no confirmed outbreaks have been linked to the casinos. The investigations are ongoing

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San Diego County Public Health officials said Wednesday they are working with tribal lands to investigate positive COVID-19 cases that may be connected to several local casinos.

Sycuan Casino confirmed to NBC 7 that they were one of several casinos working with the county to investigate cases of COVID-19, calling it standard protocol.

"Recently, contact tracing indicates that potentially four customers unrelated to each other who tested positive may have visited Sycuan within the county's time frame. As a result and as good community partners, we’re doing all we can to support the county in their investigation," Chief Administrative Officer Adam Day said, in part, in a statement to NBC 7.

The county said that, as of Wednesday, no confirmed outbreaks have been linked to the casinos. The investigations are ongoing.

County Epidemiologist Dr. Eric McDonald said they were working with several tribes to trace several cases.

The county investigations for COVID-19 cases that may be linked to tribal land are unique in the way they are investigated because of the tribe's sovereign designation, McDonald said. But like investigations with other counties, the two groups collaborate together to trace each case.

Viejas Casino & Resort, Valley View Casino & Resort, Sycuan Casino & Resort, Jamul Casino, Pala Casino Spa & Resort and Harrah's Resort Southern California, and Barona Resort & Casino are all open to the pubic with modifications.

The casinos have sovereign authority and are not required to follow the county's public health order. In mid-May, while the majority of businesses in the state remained shut down, casinos reopened their doors to customers.

When the reopenings were first announced, Wooten sought federal guidance on ways to prevent the reopenings, but later said, while she remained concerned, she would work with tribal leaders to ensure their reopening plans were safe.

Casinos shut down some machines, limited the capacity of their casinos, changed their dining rooms, added temperature checks and increase sanitation measures as part of the reopening plans.

Sycuan told NBC 7 they went "above and beyond what was asked" to ensure a safe reopening and ensured the public it was safe.

"We wouldn’t open if we didn’t feel it was safe,” said Rob Cinelli, General Manager of Sycuan Casino Resort said at the time. "We have been open for five weeks; four customers represent less than .00001% of total customers through our facility in that period of time.”

McDonald on Wednesday was asked what he would tell people who want to visit casinos at this time.

"They should not be in an "at-risk" group because if they’re at risk, they should stay home, McDonald said. "And, do the same thing that we are recommending to anybody going out for any activity outside of their home, which is to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and to wash their hands."

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