Cherokee Nation Businesses outlines commitment to safely reopen casinos

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
05/18/2020 06:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Cherokee Nation’s new casino in Tahlequah, seen March 20, and other tribal casinos are closed due to the threat of COVID-19. However, Cherokee Nation Businesses officials have set safety strategies for reopening casino properties. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TULSA – Cherokee Nation Businesses officials on May 18 announced a set of strategies titled “Responsible Hospitality” to offer a safe environment for guests and employees at its entertainment properties.

“How we move forward from this pandemic will be a part of our legacy,” CNB CEO Chuck Garrett said. “We intend to emerge confident in the knowledge that we did all we could to implement industry-leading protocols that promote the health and safety of our team members and guests. While the guest experience will be different than before, we will continue to deliver the same first-class hospitality and entertainment our guests have come to know and love.”

The plan addresses operations such as casino gaming, food and beverage service, hotel, retail, golf and live entertainment. It outlines procedures for maintaining physical distance, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and noninvasive temperature screenings for employees and guests. Those with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed entry.

Further safety protocols include fewer operating hours, occupancy limits and the requirement that all in the buildings, including guests, wear masks. Guests are asked to bring masks covering the nose and mouth but not the full face. The Centers for Disease Control advises that non-medical cloth masks still help to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“The ‘Responsible Hospitality’ plan was designed to be a fluid, evolving program that addresses the needs of now, while working toward the future,” Mark Fulton, Cherokee Nation Entertainment chief operating officer, said. “We look forward to revising, streamlining and implementing improved measures as we progress toward a more resilient future and returning our properties, amenities and services to full operation.”

Food and beverage offerings will be made available, but with further safety measures practiced. Buffet-style venues and banqueted events remain suspended. 

“I’m proud of CNB’s leadership team for prioritizing the health and safety of our business employees and customers,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Cherokee Nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has set a high standard and this phased reopening plan is an extension of that standard.”

Many CN offices remain closed. Essential CN workers continue to come into their respective places of employment, but employees on administrative leave or working from home have been sheltering in place.

The CN on May 8 announced the phases of its government reopening. The phases have target dates, but are not rigid. The status of public health in the CN jurisdiction and Oklahoma must be conducive to reopening, and the dates can be delayed. CN officials do not anticipate any phases being enacted earlier than the target dates.

Phase 1 began May 18 and involved a semi-opening of offices to employees on alternating schedules. Those offices are still closed to the public. Employees 65 or older, or with underlying health conditions that increase risk, will be required to work from home or stay on administrative leave.

Phase 2, beginning no earlier than June 1, will have returning employees divided into two teams and alternating workdays in an effort to reduce person-to-person contact. High-risk employees must remain at home.

Phase 3, beginning no earlier than July 6, will end the alternating workdays. High-risk employees will still be required to stay home.

Phase 4, starting no earlier than Aug. 4, will allow all employees to return to the office, though high-risk employees can request arrangements to work from home or administrative leave. Employees making the request will be expected to shelter in place, and be available at home during regular business hours.

Phase 5, which begins no earlier than Sept. 7, is when all employees will be expected to return to work in their respective offices.

The final phase is slated to begin on Labor Day, which is the weekend of the Cherokee National Holiday. The CN has not yet announced plans to adjust the holiday schedule as part of a COVID-19 response.

The CN will apply an array of safety measures to prepare for June 1, including partitions in areas of client interaction, increased distance between work spaces, increased cleaning systems, use of masks and waiting areas contained to 10 or fewer people.

CN citizens are encouraged to use online tag renewals, though tag offices will begin curbside services June 1.

Health experts say with no vaccine available, epidemiology demands impeding the spread by applying social distancing. Staying home, limiting contact with others, and wearing masks when out of the house helps prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Updated information on CN measures against COVID-19 are available at cherokee.org, on the CN Facebook page and by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-833-528-0063.

Click here to read the reopening plan.

CDC List of Elevated Risks

• People 65 or older

• Those living in a nursing home or long-term care facility

• People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

• Those with serious heart conditions

• People who could be immunocompromised, including cancer patients, smokers, those with bone marrow or organ transplants, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications

• Those with severe obesity – a body mass index of 40 or higher

• People with diabetes

• People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

• People with liver disease
About the Author
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. 

He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...
david-rowley@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...

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