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Viejas Worker Quits Over Casino's Plans To Reopen Next Week

Tony Wolf quit his security guard job at Viejas Casino & Resort early Friday because he's worried there will be a coronavirus outbreak when the casino reopens next week, May 15, 2020.
Jasmine Goddard
Tony Wolf quit his security guard job at Viejas Casino & Resort early Friday because he's worried there will be a coronavirus outbreak when the casino reopens next week, May 15, 2020.

As some San Diego County casinos prepare to reopen next week, concerns remain over whether it’s safe to return.

Tony Wolf, 33, quit his job as a security guard at Viejas Casino & Resort early Friday because he said he’s worried that he’ll catch COVID-19 when the casino reopens Monday.

“For basically my health and for my family's health, I just had to resign,” said Wolf, who lives with his grandmother, fiancée and her two young children. “It sucks. I really liked working there. I don’t feel they are going to have everything up in place that’s necessary.”

Viejas is one of the larger area casinos planning to resume business next week. Valley View Casino & Hotel and Sycuan Casino Resort are also slated to open to guests.

VIDEO: As Casinos Prepare to Reopen, Some Employees Still Feeling Uneasy

The reopening announcements were initially greeted with consternation this week by county public health officials who sought help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to potentially block the move.

But officials backed away, conceding the Native American tribes could do what they wanted. The tribes aren’t subject to state or county laws because they are sovereign nations.

And the tribes maintain they are taking necessary steps to safeguard workers and guests at their casinos.

“Public health and safety has always been and continues to be our number one priority,” said Adam Day, chief administrative officer for the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay. “We look forward to working cooperatively with all levels of government as we have the last 36 years — federal, state and county. And we are highly confident in our carefully designed robust health and safety plan to slowly reopen our facility in phases.”

Viejas, scheduled to reopen Monday, said on its website the safety of workers and guests is of “paramount” importance. Viejas said it’s using ultraviolet light to disinfect the casino. It will also require its employees and guests to wear masks, socially distance, and they will be subject to scans for symptoms at the entrance.

But Wolf is skeptical of their plans, which include disabling every other gambling machine to socially distance.

“They’re going to be taking their masks off to drink, to smoke, to eat,” Wolf said. “I don’t see it. Every other machine? That’s what they’re gonna do. That’s not six feet.”

Viejas did not respond to KPBS following multiple requests for comment.

Wolf said he’s worried Viejas will see a coronavirus outbreak.

“Right now, the majority of the people that go to the casino are elderly people and people who aren’t even in the best of health, even younger people,” he said. “It is all a gamble. They’re gambling with their guests' lives, with their employees’ lives.”

Viejas Worker Quits Over Casino's Plans To Reopen Next Week
Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.