Four casinos are set to reopen Friday on tribal land both in and near the Coachella Valley after being shuttered for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic and despite Gov. Gavin Newsom's recent plea for tribes to keep their casinos closed.
All four casinos will reopen amid similar health protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Both Agua Caliente casinos in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage will open at noon amid increased sanitization efforts, temperature checks, face covering requirements and other efforts aimed at curbing COVID-19, according to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
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Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa near Cabazon is targeting a 2 p.m. reopening time with added safety measures, including temperature screenings and limited guest capacity, according to the Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians.
Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella and Tortoise Rock Casino in Twentynine Palms will be opening at 10 a.m., also with new protective measures, including recently purchased air purification equipment and mandatory face coverings, according to the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians.
The tribes, as sovereign nations, opted to shut down their gaming and entertainment operations at various times between mid- and late-March due to the health threat associated with COVID-19.
California's governor last week pleaded with the state's Native American tribes to keep their casino's closed, citing the virus's continued toll on state residents, which as of Thursday afternoon had infected 86,197 and killed 3,542 people statewide.
White House Reopening Guidelines Leave Room for Interpretation
For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.
As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. The criteria has been criticized by some for being vague, creating the opportunity for any governor to argue the numbers are favorable enough to start reopening.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
"I understand that some tribal governments are planning on reopening casinos on their lands,'' Newsom wrote in a letter to tribal leaders. "This deeply concerns me, and I urge tribal governments to reconsider and instead make those determinations based on how they align with the current local public health conditions and the statewide stage of reopening.''
The Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians previously announced it would reopen its Soboba Casino near San Jacinto at noon on May 27, with new measures in place designed to guard against COVID-19. The Soboba hotel, on the other hand, will remain closed until further notice, according to the casino's website.
Last week, Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula set a June 1 target for reopening with similar measures.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution offering its symbolic but not legally binding support to regional tribes who have decided to reopen casinos.