Graton Resort and Casino planned to host an indoor New Year’s Eve party that would have housed 4,000 attendees on December 31, despite the rising number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in California and Sonoma County, officials said.
Massive New Year’s Eve Party
California’s new stay-at-home order did include Graton, which was located on tribal land in Rohnert Park. Tribal governments and casinos that they operate were excluded from state regulations because they were considered sovereign regions.
Sonoma County’s public information officer, Paul Gullixson, said, “It would be our preference, obviously, to not have a party with 4,000 people indoors. But we do not have jurisdiction there.”
In his statement, Gullixson said county officials were working with Graton to provide safety guidelines for the planned party. The said event was placed on their website as one of the casino’s private events.
Sonoma County’s Health Officer, Dr. Sundaru Mase, said, “They are planning to do things with as much mitigation measures as they can.” She said the casino made several changes to ensure the safety of the guests.
The state’s new lockdown order includes entertainment venues; however, the 62 tribal casinos in California do not fall under the new order. Graton Resort and Casino, Lytton Casino San Pablo, and River Rock Casino in Geyserville are the three casinos in The Bay Area that are all open during the lockdown.
Mase discussed the mitigation measures Graton planned to practice during the event, which is “limiting their indoor capacity to 20% of what’s normal, in terms of enforcing facial coverings or masks, as well as social distancing.”
Despite not required to follow state health regulations, tribal casinos still enforce the wearing of face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, they have removed seats at tables and turned off some of their slot machines. They also perform temperature checking for every guest that enters their establishments.
“The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria continue to work closely with the Sonoma County Public Health Officer,” said Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris regarding the question about the New Year’s Eve Event.
Sarris added that the casino would continue to operate but would maintain safety-level operations that would exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) safety requirements. He added members were tested for the virus every two weeks and are monitored for social distancing. However, Sarris did not specifically address the New Year’s Eve event.
Public Health Hazard
The casino’s in California voluntarily stopped their operations in March in line with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. However, despite the government’s request to delay their opening, the casinos reopened in mid-of-May, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The cardrooms in California said that the order’s discrepancy was unfair for them, and they requested Newsom to close the casinos to limit the threat they posed to the public.
In the last week, Sonoma County had an average of 300 new positive coronavirus cases each day. The number of new cases in the county was three times higher than the report a month ago. Sonoma County also had a higher positivity rate than San Francisco.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sonoma County has recorded a total of 17,208 confirmed COVID-19 cases, which is about 3.38% of its entire population, and 180 confirmed deaths. Additionally, officials reported 203 new cases on Wednesday, and three deceased.