Second COVID surge forces more closures, adaptations

The continued spread of COVID-19 has caused another round of closures and shifts in Oklahoma tribes’ operating procedures.

On Saturday, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation announced the indefinite temporary

closure of its FireLake Casino on Shawnee’s south side.

The tribe’s flagship property, the Grand Casino, is still open.

One of Oklahoma’s last tribes to reopen its properties, the Seminole Nation announced

on Monday that its Wewoka casino would once again be shuttered. On Tuesday, its Rivermist

Casino near Konawa followed suit. The tribe’s casino north of Seminole remains open. The

three sites re-opened on June 15 with additional measures meant to prohibit COVID from

spreading further, including mandatory temperature checks and additional hand sanitizer

stations throughout the gaming floors.

On Wednesday, the Comanche Nation announced the temporary closure of its tribal

complex, including its housing authority, realty and tax commission offices, through July 13 due to the virus. In the closure announcement, Comanche Nation chairman William Nelson

acknowledged the steady increase in cases across Oklahoma, which added more than 6,000

cases just in the month of June.

“The opening of America and the self-decision of Southwest Oklahomans not utilizing

personal protective equipment, social distancing and avoidance of crowds has caused various

spikes in our community and tribal operations,” he wrote. 

On June 24, the Lawton-based tribe announced its water park, Comanche Nation

Waterpark and Nations of Fun, would remain closed through the rest of the summer in an

effort to prevent any further community spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, other tribes have implemented additional preventative measures in

response to the continued rise in COVID cases. For example, the Choctaw Nation has now made masks mandatory for all casino guests as of Tuesday. Previously, they were only required at the table games.

Citing the continued increase in cases, the Cherokee Nation has delayed its phased

reopening of its government offices. The tribe was originally scheduled to enter the third of its

five reopening phases on July 6, which would have offices fully staffed, but still allow at-risk

employees to continue to work from home or take administrative leave.

Instead, Cherokee Nation employees will continue to have staggered shifts through the

at least the end of July in order to minimize physical contact in the office. The Tahlequah-based tribe has also implemented surface testing to its list of safety


At each of the tribe’s 150 government offices across northeastern Oklahoma, sterile

swabs are rolled over high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, desk and table

tops as well as surfaces in public areas like waiting rooms and restrooms.

Each swab is then placed in a separate test tube and labeled with the date and time of

collection, sample number, building reference number, room or location, and employee

number of the person collecting the sample. With detailed labeling, the area and location being tested can easily be identified should a test come back with traces of COVID-19.

With the environmental testing system, called ENVIROx-RV, the COVID-19 virus can

accurately be detected in less than six hours of the laboratory receiving the test sample. This

rapid testing system can also detect as many as nine other viral organisms such as the flu in the air and on surfaces.

“Protecting our staff against COVID-19 requires a multi-faceted approach, and with the

safety and sanitation measures we have in place, we are instilling confidence and reassurance in our employees that their health and safety is our top priority,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said.

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