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Pendleton casino closed by COVID-19; Hillsboro hospital workers quarantined

Coronavirus generic MGN

(Update: Pendleton casino closed; hospital workers quarantined) at home

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Leaders of an American Indian reservation in Pendleton shut down its casino and several other facilities Monday after an employee contracted coronavirus, and a state health official said the virus is likely circulating and will appear in additional locations in the state.

The employee of the Wildhorse Resort and Casino on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is hospitalized in Walla Walla, Washington, and is the third such case to emerge in Oregon, state and tribal officials said. The previous two other known cases occurred in the Portland area and had household contacts with each other, but the casino is 215 miles east of the city.

“With having three cases fairly quickly identified, two of which we can’t identify the specific source, that would indicate to us that this disease is circulating in our community and we will likely see additional cases,” Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, dozens of employees of a hospital in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro — Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center — have been quarantined at home after they may have had contact, unprotected, with the first Oregonian to come down with the virus, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

“Per current CDC guidelines, people who have had contact with COVID-19 patients are asked to maintain self-isolation at home for 14 days,” said Dr. Mary E. Giswold, associate director of Kaiser’s hospital and post-acute care.

Sidelinger told The Oregonian the Pendleton case likely means the virus “is fairly widespread in our community,” but not broad enough to start aggressive containment.

Oregon may now have 300 to 500 Oregonians who are or were unknowingly carrying the coronavirus, he acknowledged.

Another seven Oregon tests for COVID-19 have been negative, the Oregon Health Authority said late Monday, as it awaits the results of eight other tests. The number of people under monitoring in Oregon grew by 15 on Monday, to 101. They won’t be tested unless they become sick, the OHA said. They typically know someone who’s infected or traveled to countries with outbreaks.

Chuck Sams, communications director for the confederated tribes, said the tribe was informed Monday morning by Gov. Kate Brown and the OHA that an employee of the resort and casino had tested positive for the virus. The casino, an education facility, tribal elders community center and the cultural institute were being shut down for one to two days while they are disinfected. All community events on the reservation, home to about 3,000 people, are canceled for this week.

The man worked in a confined area of the casino operation and not with the general public, Sams said.

He had attended a youth basketball game at a gymnasium at the middle school in Weston, Oregon, on Saturday. School district officials have closed the gym and will clean it. Other spectators who may have been in a closed environment with the individual would be considered “low-risk” exposures, the state health authority said.

It is a mystery how the man came down with the coronavirus. He had not traveled to a part of the world with known cases of COVID-19, the health department said, saying in a statement that “it is considered a case of community transmission.”

Sidelinger said that means “we don’t know who that person is who gave this individual the infection.

“So it happened somewhere out in the community — by community it could have been their home, a business, another location, somewhere where they had close contact with someone who was ill. But we don’t know who that case was.”

Those who live in and around the 172,000-acre reservation are worried.

“I think people have very strong concerns with this ... but the tribe has tried to make sure that people are calm,” Sams said. “And we’re just trying to make sure that there’s an overabundance of precaution by these closures to clean facilities just so that we can ensure that the disease doesn’t spread.”

Clackamas County, near Portland and the home of an elementary school where one of the other COVID-19 patients worked, declared a state of emergency. The declaration by the county board of commissioners allows the county to seek additional resources from the state.

Oregon Health Authority news release:

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon health officials announced Monday morning they have identified a third presumptive positive case of COVID-19 among state residents. The third case is an adult Oregonian from Umatilla County who is currently hospitalized in Walla Walla, Wash.

State and local health officials said they are moving quickly to contact people who may have been in close contact with the individual who tested as a presumptive positive case for COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus.

"The third case is not linked to travel to a part of the world with known cases of COVID-19," the Oregon Health Authority announcement said. "It is considered a case of community transmission."

Preliminary reports indicate the Oregon resident attended a youth basketball game at a gymnasium at Weston Middle School, 205 E. Wallace St. in Weston, Ore., on Saturday.

Under federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, other spectators who may have been in a closed environment with the individual would be considered “low-risk” exposures.

Athena-Weston School District officials have closed the gym and will conduct a deep cleaning out of an abundance of caution. The gym is physically detached from the rest of the school. Health officials do not consider the separate school building to pose any risk of exposure.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Board announced Monday it was informed by the OHA that a staff member at Wildhorse Resort and Casino was the third presumptive positive case.

"The Board of Trustees has ordered that Nixyaawii Community School, Head Start, Daycare and Senior Center to be closed until all facilities have been fully sanitized," the tribes announced on their Facebook page.

"Wildhorse Resort and Casino will be temporarily closed in order to sanitize the facilities," they added, noting the closures were taking effect at noon. In addition, all community events on the Umatilla Indian Reservation are cancelled for the week of March 2 to 8."

The test on the sample was performed by Washington’s public health laboratory. The case was one of Oregon’s pending cases. Oregon health officials have updated their case and testing reports on OHA’s COVID-19 web page.

Oregon and Washington health experts are working together to determine if there are other locations where the individual may have interacted with other people in recent days, after symptoms of COVID-19 first appeared.

Health officials said they will announce if there are any additional locations where people may been exposed, if they are determined.

People who may have attended Saturday’s basketball game can call the following numbers if they have questions.

  • Oregon residents can call 211.
  • Washington residents:

OHA continues to recommend all people in Oregon take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched.
  • Take care of your health overall. Staying current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine, eating well and exercising all help your body stay resilient.
  • Consult CDC’s travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the US.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. If you are feeling sick with mild symptoms and do not need to see medical care, stay home while you recover. If you are sick and plan to seek care, please call before going in for care so arrangements can be made to prevent exposing others. For urgent medical needs, call 911.

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