Gila River Casinos Forced to Close After Employee Death and Spike in Arizona COVID-19 Cases

  • Lone Butte, Wild Horse Pass, and Vee Quiva casinos will re-close for two weeks
  • The closures follow the death of a 68-year old security guard of complications from COVID-19
  • Arizona has seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, among the most severe in the country
  • A restaurant at the Bellagio in Las Vegas has also closed after an employee tested positive
People gambling at a roulette table
Three Gila River casinos have been forced into another phase of temporary closures after the death of an employee and a recent spike in Arizona’s COVID-19 cases. [Image:]

A two-week closure

A number of Gila River hotels and casinos in Arizona have been forced to temporarily close their doors again after being open for just over a month. The measures are the result of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the state and the death of a security guard who was employed by the company.

All three properties under the ownership of the Gila River Indian Community will now close for another two weeks as a precautionary measure. The locations include Lone Butte, Wild Horse Pass, and Vee Quiva.

reassess its current safety standards”

The casino operator reopened its properties last month after initially closing in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the reopening, Gila River introduced a number of health and safety protocols which had been approved by the Arizona Department of Gaming.

A statement on the operator’s website said it will use the two-week break to “reassess its current safety standards” after receiving “feedback from its community and team members.” All Gila River staff will continue to be paid in full and receive full health benefits.

The death of Robert Washington

Robert Washington, a 68-year-old security worker at Gila River’s Lone Butte Casino in Chandler, Arizona, died of COVID-19 related complications on June 11 after returning to work in mid-May.

Robert’s daughter, Lina Washington, has been vocal about the reasons surrounding her father’s death. On Twitter, she argued that the operator’s decision not to introduce a mandatory mask policy for customers had increased the risk to employee health – particularly to her father, who was diabetic and had recently beaten prostate cancer.

According to The Arizona Republic, Gila Rivers announced it had strengthened its health and safety protocols prior to the closure to ensure all patrons of its properties wore masks. The casino operator has refused to confirm how many of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

Arizona’s COVID-19 spike

At 17.7%, Arizona has the highest seven-day average positive test rate for COVID-19 in the United States, almost double the national average. This is above the 10% marker that health officials have deemed to be a concerning level. In the last 14 days, it has had the most new cases per capita in the US.

the number of active cases stands at 43,443

So far, 1,271 people have died of COVID-19 in Arizona and the number of confirmed cases stands at 43,443, according to figures from the Arizona Department of Health Services. The spike comes several weeks after the lifting of stay-at-home orders on May 15. A number of other states are seeing a similar surge in cases across the US, including Florida and Texas.

Despite the concerning figures, Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said states will not need to close again. She said: “They just need clearer messaging to guide the population about what to do. Get masks on the population. We know that helps.”

Further COVID-19 closures

In similar news, a restaurant in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas has been forced to close two weeks after reopening after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

an abundance of caution”

Brian Ahern, an MGM Resorts spokesperson, said the measures had been taken “out of an abundance of caution.” He said the kitchen and restaurant would be sanitized, while the movements of the worker would be traced to ascertain who they had come into contact with.

Las Vegas casinos reopened earlier this month after 78 days of closures. All of the casinos have implemented a number of health and safety measures to ensure the protection of customers and employees. These safety measures had to receive approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

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