Oregon Tribe Cries ‘Discrimination’ After Wildhorse Casino Coronavirus Case

Posted on: March 10, 2020, 04:56h. 

Last updated on: March 10, 2020, 05:23h.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) claims it has been discriminated against since its casino was temporarily shuttered last week in the wake of a coronavirus scare.

Wildhorse Casino
The Wildhorse Casino in Oregon was closed for 48 hours last week after a member of the staff tested positive for the coronavirus. (Image: Erica Morrison, OPB)

The Oregon-based tribe took the decision to close its Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Umatilla County for a deep clean after one unnamed staff member tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.

But since then, the tribe says it has been snubbed by some of its counterparts in the Umatilla food services and hospitality sector, namely The Red Lion Hotel in Pendleton and a local branch of Domino’s Pizza.

As reported by The East Oregonian, the Red Lion posted a sign on March 2, signed by hotel management, which stated:

“Due to the recent Coronavirus scare at the Wildhorse Casino & Resort, we are unable to accept guests and/or reservations that have been previously at the Resort until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

Imported Diseases Devastated Tribes

Oregon health officials are advising that older people and those suffering from existing health conditions like diabetes or heart disease should refrain from traveling and stock up on food and medicine.

But they have not suggested that hotels should refuse business from people who may have been in the vicinity of an infected party.

The Beaver state has relatively few confirmed infections – 15, as of Tuesday – although its northerly neighbor, Washington, has been the hardest hit in the US, accounting for 22 of 26 deaths, as of Tuesday.

Many businesses are understandably concerned about containing the virus, however.

Tribal spokesman Chuck Sams told Oregon Live it was wrong to connect the Native Americans with COVID-19 when an estimated 90 percent of North American indigenous populations were wiped out by diseases brought by white Europeans.

“If there’s anybody that’s been devastated by diseases, it’s been the tribes,” he said.

Pizza No-Show

Meanwhile, the tribe claimed Friday that Domino’s refused to deliver pizzas to the staff involved in the Wildhorse cleanup operation.

This was contested by the outlet’s manager, who told The East Oregonian that the delivery driver had arrived to find the casino closed and did not realize the pizzas were for the cleaning crews inside.

She added that she took allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and was considering consulting a lawyer over the allegation.

Assistant Manager of the Red Lion, Carol Welch, contacted The East Oregonian later Tuesday to tell them she had approached CDC about measures the hotel could take following the positive test at the Wildhorse.

She said she was informed that the sign — which was removed on Tuesday when the Wildhorse reopened following a 48-hour clean-up — would not be discriminatory if it were merely a short-term measure.