New York State Casino Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19, Heath Officials Notify Patrons

Posted on: October 5, 2020, 02:09h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2020, 04:04h.

An employee at a commercial casino in upstate New York has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to news accounts.

Rivers Casino and Resort
A staff member at Rivers Casino Schenectady, N.Y. has tested positive for COVID-19. Casino customers are being notified. (Image: Times Union)

The unidentified staff member at Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady worked at the property from Sept. 20-22 and Sept. 29. Schenectady County Public Health Services is contacting patrons who visited the casino during those days about potential exposure, according to WTEN-TV.

The Rivers Casino and Resort is near the Mohawk River in Schenectady, a city of 66,000 people about 21 miles north of Albany, the state capital. The resort opened Feb. 8, 2017.

In Schenectady County, 1,429 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic’s onset. In that time, 48 county residents have died. The health services website notes that many new cases “have been linked through family and social connections.” The website urges people to “avoid gathering in group settings,” but does not mention casinos or other businesses.

Rivers Casino and Resort spokesman Andre Claridge told WTEN-TV the resort “meets or exceeds” state guidelines for casino reopenings.

New York Casino Requirements

With coronavirus infection rates soaring in March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered casinos and other “nonessential” businesses to close.

The Empire State is home to four commercial casinos and eight video-only sites, such as racetracks, known as “racinos.” The governor permitted the state’s 12 gaming properties to reopen Sept. 9 at 25 percent capacity.

Cuomo also required safety measures to be put in place. These measures include mandatory masks for patrons and employees. The governor also prohibited table games from being used until barriers, such as plexiglass dividers, were installed.

Rivers Casino and Resort opened its doors on the governor’s restart date, but only recently began allowing customers to use roulette and craps tables. After physical barriers were installed, these games were put back into play on Friday.

Michael Kane, president and executive director of the New York Gaming Association, told some casinos needed extra time beyond Sept. 9 to be sure the state safety guidelines were in place.

Empire City Casino, a harness race track and video-only casino, was the final property to reopen in the state after the March COVID-19 shutdown. The MGM Resorts property, located just north of New York City, opened Sept. 21.

COVID-19 Infection Rates

In a news conference on Monday, Cuomo said the state has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation at 1.23 percent over the last seven days. He noted that the number is down from an infection rate of 20 percent at its height in the spring. The lower rate is attributable to several factors, including enforcement of social distancing and other safety mandates, he said.

It’s remarkable that we’re that low right now,” Cuomo said.

A state map that Cuomo displayed during the news conference showed that some hotspots, including Broome and Orange counties, have driven the infection rate higher than it otherwise would be. Schenectady County is not one of the hotspots on the governor’s map of problem areas in the state.

Statewide, 464,582 have been infected with COVID-19, according to the state website. As of Sunday, 25,519 have died.