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Hundreds Of COVID-19 Cases Tied To San Diego County Tribal Casinos

 December 22, 2020 at 10:16 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Earlier this year, San Diego counties, tribal casinos bet. Big. They could reopen and still keep COVID-19 at Bay. It's been a bad wager KPBS obtained County records of community outbreak showing hundreds of cases tied to area tribal casinos reporter Amica Sharma has more. Speaker 2: 00:19 There were at least 638 coronavirus cases linked to seven local tribal casinos from June through mid December. The highest are tied to the counties. Two largest casinos VA has casino and resort and sequin casino and resort. There were 166 cases connected to VA Haas and 155 to six Guam. According to records of community outbreaks obtained by KPBS. Speaker 3: 00:44 Very concerning that there's ongoing transmission in these settings. Kristen Speaker 2: 00:48 Kramer's is an infectious disease doctor. He says that transmission fuels community spread. Speaker 3: 00:54 It's like a chain reaction. And you know, w we're not going to be able to get our hands around this epidemic. When was just this ongoing transmission, Speaker 2: 01:01 Most of the cases are linked to VA Husson Sekwan the records reveal that no major casino has been spared. They show 100, two cases tied to Berona Hummel 91 Harrah's 57 Valley view 45 and Palla 22 representatives from those five casinos, either declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests to say that a case is linked with a location means that a person was present in the location. Within two weeks of being diagnosed with the disease. It does not mean that the person contracted the virus at the location or infected anyone else there, the County wouldn't harm it on this story. And for months, it has refused to release detailed information on community outbreaks, arguing that businesses and organizations would not report them. If they knew they would be public KPBS and other news outlets sued for the records of superior court, but lost the cases on appeal. Speaker 2: 02:00 The County defines a community outbreak as three or more people with COVID-19 who are not close contacts being in a specific place over the same 14 day period. The fact that an establishment is the site of an outbreak doesn't necessarily mean it has unsafe practices. Tori big knife, chief legal officer for VA house enterprises issued a written statement to KPBS. Big knife said quote, while it is true that since reopening VA Haas, casino and resort has learned of some guests and team members testing positive for COVID-19, those guests and team members typically interacted with numerous other persons and places other than VA house casino and resort during the potential exposure period and quote [inaudible] chief administrative officer Adam Day also said in a written statement, quote, there have been no outbreaks linked to our casino. The casinos closed when the pandemic hit in March, but resumed business may against the wishes of state and County officials. Speaker 2: 03:02 Tribes are sovereign entities and not subject to state and County health orders. Since reopening the casinos have touted new precautions, sick wan offers COVID-19 testing. VA Haas says it performs contact tracing masks and social distancing are required. They've also intensified sanitation and installed plexiglass dividers. VA has since Shaquan don't intend to close again, despite a new statewide stay at home order amidst skyrocketing coronavirus numbers Sycuans days stated quote as a tribal government who was responsible for providing medical care, education, police protection, fire protection, et cetera, to our tribal members. We are an essential business SDSU business lecturer. Miro Kopech says the huge impact. California's 74, a tribal casinos have on the state and local economy create a delicate situation. Speaker 4: 03:57 These tribes throughout California generate over three and a half billion dollars in tax revenues for the state. Speaker 2: 04:04 Tommy Wolf is a VA house security guard who quit when the casinos reopened in may. He says the tribes are putting profits over public health. And so our players, Speaker 4: 04:14 It's not essential to go gamble, Amica Speaker 2: 04:17 Sharma KPBS news.

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Community outbreak records obtained by KPBS show a total of more than 630 cases in which people diagnosed with the disease had been at casinos within 14 days of their diagnosis.
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