Covid Death Shuts Down Gila River Casinos in Arizona
The three Gila River casinos, including the Lone Butte casino (l.), in Arizona shut down late last week when a security guard died of Covid-19. The casinos had just instituted a mask requirement for all visitors but said they would re-evaluate their health protocols after closing for 14 days. There was no indication whether other Gila River casino employees have been diagnosed with Covid.
The first casino to be hit with a Covid case after reopening has closed, along with two of its sister properties.
Arizona’s Gila River Community announced its three casinos, Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte, and Vee Quiva—closed at 2 a.m. on June 18. The casinos reopened in mid-May after being closed for two months due to the lockdown.
Security guard Robert Washington, 68, died of Covid-related illness on June 11, after returning to work in mid-May when most Arizona casinos reopened. According to the Arizona Republic, Washington had complained about the guests, most of who didn’t wear masks or practice social distancing. Washington suffered from diabetes and had recently recovered from pancreatic cancer. As such, he fits the profiles of Covid-19 deaths, which almost always have other immune system weaknesses related.
Tribal officials said the three casinos would close down for two weeks. During that time the tribe will “reassess its current safety standards” after evaluating its safety plan with the Gila River Indian Community Council. The tribe said it would seek “feedback from its community and team members,” as well.
When casinos reopened there were some expectations that some team members may contract the virus. Most expected to handle it by isolating those diagnosed and contact tracing the employee’s movements and test anyone who worked with or came in contact with the member. But Washington’s death, relatively suddenly, has apparently changed that strategy. The tribe has not announced if other employees have contracted the virus or how they were handling anyone who can in contact with Washington.
Gila River Governor Stephen Lewis released a statement that the temporary shutdown will help protect casino employees and customers, as well as those who live in the Gila River community.
“Like our sister tribes and businesses all over Arizona, we have tried to do what is best for all, while processing new information and new guidelines about the pandemic with little in the way of definitive guidance,” he said.