The Southern Ute Indian Tribe intensified its response to the spread of COVID-19 on Sunday, partially in reaction to new cases reported in surrounding areas.
The Southern Ute Tribal Council, the tribe’s incident management team and tribal entities re-examined critical functions, issued telecommuting orders and instituted more closures, with changes starting Monday. The tribe had already declared a state of emergency, canceled or postponed large events and emphasized social distancing. As of Monday, it has not reported any positive COVID-19 cases.
The response updates included remote work, self-quarantine and more closures.
All tribal buildings went on lockdown with no public access until further notice.
The Sky Ute Casino Resort ceased all operations at 3 p.m. Monday. The hotel, all dining operations, gaming operations and bowling alley closed. All events continue to be postponed.
Almost all staff began working remotely Monday. Tribal staff who live in New Mexico were required to telecommute. Southern Ute Growth Fund, Permanent Fund and Shared Services staff should also begin working remotely, the news release said.
The only exceptions were designated essential personnel in each department. Growth Fund staff who must still report to work must also pass a health screening before entering the Growth Fund building.
“As the tribal chairman, I hold the lives of the tribal staff, tribal membership and their families, as well as the tribal resources in my hands,” Chairman Christine Sage said in a news release Sunday.
The measures will help “flatten the curve,” or decrease the number of patients trying to access medical care at one time. The changes aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and additional stress on the health care system, the news release said.
The council also described additional self-quarantine measures.
“We each have a responsibility to attempt to limit the exposure of COVID-19, especially to the tribal elders and the high-risk population of the Southern Ute tribal membership and our community,” Sage said.
Tribal staff members who are instructed to report to their work stations are required to take their temperature and go through a self-screening process.
Any staff member who voluntarily travels outside of a designated safety area will go on a 14-day self-quarantine symptom-watch period.
For the community, tribal members who travel outside of a 50-mile radius “are strongly encouraged” to self-quarantine for 14 days, the release said.
The tribe did not immediately respond to requests for comment about what the designated safety area is or where the 50-mile radius extends from.