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Chumash Casino Resort reports 5 new low-risk cases of COVID-19
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Chumash Casino Resort reports 5 new low-risk cases of COVID-19

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Guests are seated at a blackjack table, which features plastic barriers, at the Chumash Casino Resort.

The Chumash Casino Resort confirmed on Thursday that five employees recently tested positive for COVID-19, nearly two weeks after their first low-risk case was reported.

According to the casino, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department determined that the five new cases are low-risk and were not contracted on the property.

A statement issued by John Elliott, CEO for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, explained that due to the stringent safety measures being taken by the casino and its employees to ensure the safety of guests and fellow team members, including proper use of PPE and limited interactions with guests, a risk assessment based on Santa Barbara County Public Health Department criteria determined the new cases to be low-risk, meaning there was minimal contact and exposure to guests and other employees. 

"As part of our risk assessment, we determined that an employee who had close contact with fellow team members was later determined to be positive for COVID-19," Elliott stated. "Out of an abundance of caution, we tested an entire shift of employees who had access to the positive employee. Of the nearly 40 who were tested, all tests came back negative for COVID-19, and we attribute those negative test results to the strict safety measures that have been implemented with guest and employee safety in mind.” 

A notice sent to casino members by Elliott on July 8 informing them of the new cases stressed the property's Safe + Well safety measures that are required of both employees and visitors to safely use the facility. One of them is face coverings, which can only be removed when guests are seated where a physical barrier is present.

Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, stated the importance of perspective, keeping in mind that the large organization employs nearly 1,700 local residents.

"As COVID-19 cases increase in the county, it’s likely that our loyal guests and members of our workforce will be affected as well," he wrote in a statement. "This is why we’ve gone to great lengths to create a safe, non-contact environment that requires all of our entrants to wear masks. In addition, we have enhanced cleaning schedules for all areas of the property and temperature checks for all employees and guests. Once we leave our homes, it’s imperative that we all take the necessary precautions to avoid possibly spreading this virus, which means wearing a mask and continuing to social distance.” 

Paige Batson, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department director of community health, said the department deems the Chumash Casino Resort a partner during the health crisis, and considers their safety protocols to be outstanding. 

She explained that had the cases been contracted at the casino, more than just the numbers would be considered to determine case severity and action steps to be taken by the health department. They also look at frequency of cases and location, such as a concentration of cases in the kitchen, for example, and safety protocols being taken by employees — or lack thereof. 

"But they do an excellent job," said Batson. "They are ahead of the game."

Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News. 

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