WORLEY, Idaho — The Coeur d’Alene Casino officially reopened on Friday with new protocols in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The casino closed on March 20, five days before Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced a statewide stay-at-home order. The order expired on Friday.
All casino employees kept their jobs, wages and benefits during the closure, though only essential employees continued to work.
The casino funds many of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's key programs. The tribe added that millions of dollars were lost due to the closure.
"Millions of dollars have been spent to continue to pay our employees. Also millions of dollars in lost revenue as well," said Coeur d’Alene Casino Chief Executive Officer Laura Stensgar.
The casino partially reopened on Monday before the stay-at-home order expired. Since the tribe is federally recognized, it is not subject to state law.
It's almost business as usual at the casino on Friday, though there are some temporary changes. Guests entering the casino have their temperatures checked and receive face masks, according to KREM's Taylor Viydo. Employees are also wearing masks.
Every other slot machine has been turned off to encourage people to sit farther apart and floor markings at the casino promote social distancing. All concerts and large events at the casino have been rescheduled to later dates.
The casino will also be closed from from 3 to 7 a.m. daily for deep cleaning.
Some restaurants at the casino reopened on Monday with enhanced cleaning protocols and reduced seating capacity, casino spokesperson Heather Keen said. Tables were removed to promote social and physical distancing.
The Spa Ssakwa’q’n, bingo, and off-track betting will remain closed during the casino's initial reopening phase, Keen said.
"Notably different than other businesses currently operating, face masks or face coverings will be required for everyone on the casino property, making the health protections we have in place arguably more stringent than those in place at a local grocery or hardware store," Keen wrote to KREM via email.
Neither the Coeur d’Alene Reservation or Benewah County have had any confirmed COVID-19 cases to date.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council appointed a Task Force to plan for the phased reopening of the reservation and tribal entities. The group will regularly review local coronavirus data and trends and provide recommendations to the Tribal Council as the situation changes.
Other tribal entities and facilities will also begin their phased reopenings.
Stensgar says the casino developed strict protocols in line with federal guidelines, adding that the tribe looked at coronavirus cases in the region.
"Based on that data, which we're monitoring very closely, we felt that it was safe to open — with strict protocols of course," she said.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little is now implementing his plan for how the state can reopen as the threat of coronavirus recedes.
Under stage one of the plan, which went into effect on Friday, both retail stores and places of worship would be allowed to reopen, provided they can maintain appropriate social distancing.
Stage two, set to run from May 16 to May 29, would see restaurants, hair and nail salons and gyms reopen, as long as they can safely meet protocols.
Bars, nightclubs, and large venues like movie theaters and concert spaces would remain shut down.