Sycuan Casino Workers Possibly Exposed to Tuberculosis Patient, San Diego Officials Say

Posted on: January 4, 2022, 06:15h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2022, 06:05h.

Health officials in the San Diego area say someone recently diagnosed with tuberculosis may have exposed workers and players at the Sycuan Casino Resort to the infectious disease.

Sycuan Casino
San Diego County health officials say a person who came down with tuberculosis may have infected individuals at the Sycuan Casino Resort. County officials and casino representatives, though, do not believe there was a high-risk exposure. (Image: Sycuan Casino Resort)

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency revealed Monday that the individual in question visited the El Cajon casino, located about 20 miles east of downtown San Diego, between April 1, 2021 and Dec. 9, 2021. County health officials are working with the casino to identify and notify those who may have been exposed to the patron.

Tuberculosis, sometimes referred to as TB, “is a potentially serious disease” that primarily targets the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. It is transmitted through droplets inhaled after an infected person sneezes or coughs.

San Diego area health officials say symptoms of an infection include an ongoing cough, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss. Fighting tuberculosis will require a lengthy course of specific antibiotics.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 billion people were infected with TB in 2018, nearly a quarter of the world’s population. It’s considered the deadliest infectious disease, as 1.5 million people die from it annually. However, cases in the US are far, far less frequent. The CDC reported 7,174 total cases reported in 2020, down from 8,904 in 2019.

Health officials expect the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role in the decrease in US cases.

San Diego County officials said 192 TB cases were reported in 2020, and 164 had been reported in 2021. Reporting for last year has not yet been completed, though, the county said.

County: Sycuan Not a ‘High-Risk Exposure’

In a statement, the county health department said the exposure risk was low thanks to the precautions the casino took in response to the COVID-19 crisis. That included masking and the installation of divider walls between gaming stations.

While many people exposed to tuberculosis do not become infected, some will be, and an early infection may not show any symptoms,” San Diego County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said. “Although we don’t think this is a high-risk exposure, testing is recommended for employees who may have been exposed to the infected individual for a significant period of time.”

Individuals who are concerned about potential exposure are encouraged to contact the county’s TB control program at (619) 692-8621.

GM: COVID-19 Protocols Reduced TB Risk

In a statement to Tuesday, Sycuan Casino General Manager Rob Cinelli said his team is working closely with county health officials to protect employees and guests. He added that health officials believe there was “only minimal exposure to a very specific group” of casino employees. Guests were not likely to have been exposed.

“Our COVID-19 protocols require our team members to wear masks, wash hands, practice social distancing, and stay home if they are sick,” Cinelli said. “The protocols we have put into place have definitely helped mitigate any potential risk. We will continue to monitor any new information we receive and make property-wide adjustments as needed to keep our guests and team members safe.”

According to the Sycuan website, the casino made facial coverings optional on June 15, 2021 for all guests and team members who are fully vaccinated. It continued to require masks for anyone not fully vaccinated. But it did stop taking temperature checks for everyone entering the premises.

On Oct. 1, though, the casino revised its policy to make masks mandatory for all team members. Fully vaccinated guests still have the option to wear a mask, while they are still mandatory for individuals who are not fully vaccinated.