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Pala Reservation Following COVID-19 Stay At Home Orders

In this undated photo, a screen outside Pala Casino Resort announces its clos...

Credit: Pala Band of Mission Indians

Above: In this undated photo, a screen outside Pala Casino Resort announces its closure due to COVID-19.

Life on one of San Diego's largest Native American reservations has changed in recent weeks as communities take preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Pala Band of Mission Indians has closed non-essential businesses much like we've seen in cities across the state. Tribal Chairman Robert H. Smith said that includes the Pala Casino Resort.

"It’s pretty devastating because we had a lot of employees, 1,800 employees," Smith said. "We have a skeleton staff. It’s an economic enterprise to bring resources to our tribe. We had some money tucked away so we’re operating as a government until this thing blows over. We'll try to get back up, get people their jobs back and help out the community, and local surrounding community.”

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Smith said Pala and other tribes are not required to follow state and federal laws and directives relating to COVID-19, but they decided to adopt social distancing and other guidelines. Smith said tribal staff is taking steps to make sure members don't become isolated.

“People are fearful," Smith said. "We’ve got a lot of elders, people with ongoing medical illnesses. We got the word out. Don’t come out unless you have to. I’m having my senior staff check on my seniors. We have phone numbers to call to see if they need anything.”

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Like the rest of the country, it's unclear when life will return to normal on the reservation. Many community events planned for the weeks ahead have been postponed by the tribal government.

“We had an annual cultural gathering scheduled for the end of April that we had to cancel/postpone," Smith said. "And we had another cultural gathering in the first week of May which we had to postpone.”

As of Monday, April 7, Smith said there are no reported COVID-19 cases on the Pala reservation.

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