Dear Tribal community,
This Tribal Council prioritizes health and safety. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we followed public health experts’ guidance and took extraordinary measures to protect our community, including temporarily closing our school, government offices and the Emerald Queen Casino.
As soon as we closed our casinos, our staff began developing a plan to reopen safely and sought input from public health experts in the state. EQC installed Plexiglas barriers and temperature check stations, contracted for deep cleaning, adopted new safety policies such as mask requirements and trained staff in proper procedures. EQC management is in regular contact with the Tribe’s public health official for the latest COVID-19 information and areas for improvement. You can read more about the casinos’ extensive safety protocols here.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has received thousands of complaints concerning workplace safety with regard to COVID-19. Appropriately, filing an OSHA complaint is as easy as filling out a website form or simply calling OSHA. This happened in relation to the EQC Tacoma location. On July 17, OSHA sent EQC a letter containing alleged COVID-19 hazards that OSHA had received in relation to the EQC Tacoma site. The allegations covered issues related to social distancing, hand sanitization, confidentiality, ill guests and employees, and the proper use of masks. As OSHA stated, the letter was not a citation or proposed penalty, but a requirement for EQC to investigate the alleged hazards, report the findings and take corrective measures where necessary. Upon receipt of the letter, EQC promptly started and completed an investigation and sent the results to OSHA. OSHA may request more information, conduct an on-site inspection, or simply close the file. At the end of the day, any further involvement from OSHA will help us improve the health and safety measures taken at EQC.
The Tribe doesn’t make a practice out of commenting on such findings, and public release of our internal investigations is rare. However, given the public concern about COVID-19, the Tribal Council took the opportunity to take a deep look at what was working at the EQC, what could be improved, and to see how well our practices measured up to the policies we put into place. We did this for our community, including our guests and our employees.
The investigation included close review of security camera footage, review of logs and employee interviews. The broad allegations set forth in the OSHA letter were not supported. Overall, the investigation found that our EQC employees have gone above and beyond to keep the guests and themselves safe. Yet, certain areas needed immediate improvement and policy reinforcement, including making sure masks are being properly worn at all times by guests and employees in all areas of the casino in strict adherence to the COVID policy. This action was taken straightaway. EQC managers also looked for ways to further improve safety measures, including the creation of one point of contact for all EQC COVID-related issues and the adoption of improved employee contact tracing protocols. As more is learned about the virus, EQC is committed to adapt, as we all must, in dealing with this novel and changing pandemic.
To date, in a county with more than 4,500 positive COVID-19 cases, only five Emerald Queen Casino employees have tested positive. In each instance, safety protocols were followed, and we believe none contracted the virus through their jobs, as all affected employees are interviewed to determine their possible contacts, which are often traced back to family and friends. We want our front-line employees to feel safe and speak up when necessary to help make our operations safer. They are on the front lines in this pandemic, and they will get all the support this Council and EQC management can give them.
We cannot let down our guard in the face of COVID-19. We have to continually improve and adapt. We all have to work together to keep our community safe.