Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Aug. 11, 2020

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OSHA sends workplace safety notice of allegations to ilani

State office of federal agency wants casino to investigate claims of lax coronavirus measures

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Days after ilani confirmed a case of COVID-19 in an employee, the casino west of La Center received notice from the state of worker allegations over safety measures to protect employees from coronavirus.

A June 15 letter from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Washington office outlines the allegations.

“There was an outbreak of coronavirus, and they have yet to clean the environment where the person was located,” the complaint reads. “They are not monitoring the amount of people allowed in the establishment … exposing people to coronavirus.”

Washington’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration office has no plans to inspect the facility at the moment, according to the letter, but it is requiring the casino to conduct an internal investigation and supply OSHA with documentation and findings by early next week before deciding on any further action.

ilani closed temporarily earlier this year to put restrictions in place to protect employees from COVID-19. The casino reopened on May 27. The Cowlitz Tribe has sovereign rights and is not required to follow the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

Other casinos across the state opened around the same time as ilani. Gov. Jay Inslee said he felt the reopenings had come too soon, but he said he appreciated that the tribes were putting precautions in place.

ilani President and General Manager Kara Fox-LaRose said in a prepared statement that the casino disputes the claim that it did not clean the area where the infected employee worked. The statement said the casino is operating at 50 percent capacity.

Fox-LaRose also said the casino has implemented a number of safety precautions to enforce social distancing, such as powering off certain gaming machines and removing seating from machines. The casino is frequently sanitizing high-touch areas and has also placed Plexiglas barriers at gaming tables to separate patrons. The casino is also taking the temperatures of staff and guests before they enter the facility.

“We understand that in these unprecedented times, concerns for safety precautions are extremely heightened,” Fox-LaRose said. “Our concern for the well-being of our team members and guests has never been higher.”

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