Updated April 15, 2022
Tribal governments continue to monitor the evolving COVID pandemic and enact policies and protective measures to safeguard vulnerable populations, Indian and non-Indian alike.
Stepping Up in Challenging Times
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribes made the difficult decision to temporarily close casinos and many other business enterprises to ensure important protocols were in place to keep employees, guests and the community safe—forgoing vital revenue used to fund government services such as health care, education, elder programs, infrastructure and human services. These aggressive business closures created great financial strains for tribal governments. Fortunately, after months of planning and implementation, all tribal casinos in Washington were able to reopen and safely resume gaming.
Specific steps taken to protect public health vary depending on the gaming facility, but include limiting the number of guests to support physical distancing, additional cleaning protocols, enhanced ventilation, increased testing, and vaccinating employees, among others.
In addition to adjusting gaming facility operations, Tribal governments have been at the forefront of caring for communities during the COVID crisis.
Helping Stabilize Washington’s Healthcare System
Tribes have reduced strain on the state’s health system by attending to the needs of their on-reservation populations – distributing protective equipment and other medical supplies, establishing testing sites, and even creating a field hospital.
Protecting Vulnerable Populations
Tribal governments took a variety of measures to protect their citizens from COVID’s disproportionate and often devastating impact on Native American Communities. Several Washington tribes responded with reservation closures to minimize the spread of the virus and protect the health and welfare of their communities. Throughout the pandemic, tribes also took precautions to protect elders and found creative ways to support youth.
Mitigating Economic Fallout
Tribes in Washington went to great lengths to alleviate the economic fallout of COVID-19 for their communities. Tribal governments and enterprises instituted public health mandates early and converted to work from-home arrangements where possible, and tribal citizens and families received direct relief on many reservations. Some tribal enterprises maintained payroll for employees even if they were unable to work and many tribes developed food delivery programs for at-risk community.
Responding to an Evolving Issue
Since this is a continually evolving situation with unique circumstances for each community, it is best to reach out to individual Tribes to learn more about specific safety practices.
Tribal Government/Tribal Casino Resources
- Lower Elwha
- Port Gamble S’Klallam
- Shoalwater Bay
- Squaxin Island
- Upper Skagit
Washington State Resources