When the current coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. and the federal, state, and local governments began to shut down, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe passed a Resolution enacting a public health emergency, creating the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Incident Management Team (IMT). The IMT is tasked with responding to the crisis at hand, protecting the tribal membership, tribal staff, and tribal resources. On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, the tribe issued the ‘Stay at Home’ Order and on Friday, June 17, 2020, the tribe issued another public health order requiring the use of face coverings. Those orders have not been lifted.
As of this interview, the tribe has not had a single tribal member test positive for COVID-19. I believe this is attributable to our public health orders and the dedicated work of the IMT.
The tribal strategy has always been to protect the health and welfare of the entire tribal membership and tribal staff. The tribe is not willing to increase the risk of exposure. Therefore, the tribe has continued the tribally issued ‘Stay at Home’ Order, requiring the use of face coverings, and promoting good, preventative health practices to keep our community safe.
The tribe’s Sky Ute Casino Resort remains closed. The decision to continue the ‘Stay at Home’ Order, which prevents the opening of our tribal gaming operations, has been met with both resistance and support. The Southern Ute Tribal Council and the IMT have taken a scientific approach to our decision making, which helps when explaining the rationale for remaining closed.
When the number of infections remain steady at a low case load and the local health care system is able to operate without the fear of overload, we will consider reopening.
The plans for reopening have already been developed and will continue to be reviewed prior to the opening date in an effort to ensure when our doors open, we have created the safest environment possible while prioritizing patron entertainment.
The best advice I can give is to do what is best for your tribal members, staff, and community. Good vibes and prayers are important, as well as wearing a face covering when you do have to go in public. Be strong and remind your community ‘we are in this together.’ With the community support, we will survive this virus and move forward with a ‘new normal.’