Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Site of COVID-19 Cluster, Five Table Game Workers Test Positive

Posted on: July 21, 2020, 07:17h. 

Last updated on: July 21, 2020, 11:16h.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina has been identified as the site of a COVID-19 cluster.

Harrah's Cherokee coronavirus COVID-19
Harrah’s Cherokee is back open and has been offering COVID-19 testing, which led to the identification of five employees whose results came back positive. (Image: Joseph Martin/Indian Country Today)

Jackson County health officials say five table game workers recently tested positive for the coronavirus. The North Carolina Division of Public Health defines clusters of COVID-19 in workplaces as a minimum of five positive test results within a 14-day period, and when there’s a plausible linkage between the infected.

The Jackson County Department of Public Health and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Public Health and Human Services says five Harrah’s employees working in the casino’s table games section are now following isolation orders, and an investigation is ongoing.

Based on information provided by the employees and video surveillance records, no other employees or customers have been identified as close contacts, as defined by the CDC,” said Brooks Robinson, regional manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos.

“All employees who test positive, show symptoms, or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive have been directed not to come to work and to self-isolate,” Robinson added.

Casino Remains Open

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is one of two Native American gaming properties in North Carolina.  The other is its sister property, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel.

The two casinos owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and operated by Caesars Entertainment could soon get some competition in the Tar Heel State. Last week, the Catawba Indian Nation broke ground on its $300 million casino resort near Charlotte.

Harrah’s Cherokee is about 130 miles as the crow flies from the Catawba casino project. The Cherokee casino opened in 1997 in the mountains of the western part of the state. Today, the casino measures 150,000 square feet and comes with more than 3,100 slot machines and 100 table games. A sportsbook is also on the way.

Despite being identified as a COVID-19 cluster, Harrah’s Cherokee remains open.

“Enhanced health and safety protocols in place since reopening include training of our entire team of over 3,000 employees on cleaning and sanitizing techniques, the proper use of PPE, and mandatory wearing of face masks by employees and customers,” Robinson said of the decision to remain open.

Contact Tracing

Health officials with the county and tribe say they’re working together to identify “any additional close contacts” employees might have had with the infected group.

Harrah’s Cherokee reopened May 28 at 30 percent capacity. Both tribal casinos voluntarily closed their doors on March 18. Being sovereign nations, state officials cannot mandate that the Native American properties suspend their operations — even during a global health crisis.

North Carolina — like many other states across the country — is currently experiencing an uptick in cases. The state has 101,046 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 1,676 deaths.

“We want to be done with this pandemic, but it’s not done with us,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D). “CDC Director Robert Redfield said that if everyone could wear a face covering over the next six weeks, we could drive this virus into the ground. Let’s do it for our children, if nothing else.”