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Sacramento card room closes 3 days after ‘soft’ reopening; an employee got coronavirus


A Sacramento card room closed down last week after an employee tested positive for coronavirus, just three days after it had reopened from three months of closure brought on by the ongoing pandemic.

Parkwest Casino Lotus, located along Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento, confirmed to The Sacramento Bee it has been temporarily closed since last Friday due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the highly contagious virus. The business opened back up to the public Tuesday, June 16, a spokesperson confirmed by email.

The card room remains closed so “a deep clean, sanitization and disinfection protocol can be completed,” Parkwest media spokesman Roger Salazar told The Bee.

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Salazar said Parkwest notified Sacramento County public health officials immediately Friday of the positive case, and that the county is helping the card room perform contact tracing for any employees or customers that may have come into contact with the employee. Parkwest also contacted Cal-OSHA and California gambling licensing authorities, according to Salazar.

“Parkwest is following all public health guidelines and protocols and, in order to ensure customer and employee safety, the casino is closed until we are certain it is safe,” Salazar wrote. No date for reopening has been set.

The Bee became aware of the positive case via text messages from two people who said they gambled at Parkwest Casino Lotus during the brief opening period. Both declined to give their names but expressed concern that the card room had not done enough to quickly contact customers who played there last week.

As of Tuesday morning, neither the Parkwest Casino Lotus website nor its social media pages included any announcement of the employee’s positive test. None of those pages, as of early Tuesday, appeared to acknowledge last week’s reopening. The most recent post still active on Lotus’ Facebook page is from March 16, announcing its closure as of one day earlier.

In an emailed response to The Bee’s questions regarding communication to customers, Salazar wrote that the card room’s “most recent reopening was not widely announced, mostly word of mouth and a few posts, the equivalent of a soft opening.”

It was not clear how many guests or employees may have passed through the card room last week.

Lotus is one of five card rooms operated in Northern California by Parkwest Casinos, with other locations in Rancho Cordova, Lodi, Livermore and Petaluma. They are among 73 card rooms licensed by the state, offering baccarat, Pai Gow, variants of California Blackjack and a few other card games.

The Lodi card room reopened Monday morning, casino floor staff confirmed by phone. The remaining four Parkwest casinos are still closed.

Prior to last week’s brief opening, Parkwest Casino Lotus had been closed for exactly three months, from March 15 to June 15. According to WARN Act notices filed with the state, the casino temporarily laid off 174 employees in April due to the pandemic closure.

Closed since mid-March, card rooms were given the go-ahead by both Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and Sacramento County to resume business June 12, with state guidelines in place that call for social distancing measures, sanitation, mask use and a written, “workplace-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every facility.”

The state guidelines say card rooms, like other businesses, must identify “close contacts (within six feet for 15 minutes or more) of an infected employee and take steps to isolate COVID-19 positive employee(s) and close contacts.” The rules don’t explicitly say a card room must temporarily close if an employee tests positive, but that could be a self-imposed requirement within a workplace-specific plan.

Card rooms and gambling halls, as well as other entertainment venues such as movie theaters, have been classified within Phase 3 of Newsom’s four-phase economic reopening plan, denoting a higher risk of virus transmission. The governor on March 19 issued a stay-at-home order for all of California’s roughly 40 million residents, and ordered all but essential businesses and services to temporarily close.

Since May, most of California’s counties have been allowed to gradually reopen a number of different types of non-essential businesses, with modifications in place. Last Thursday, the governor and state health officials made it mandatory to wear masks in most public or shared indoor spaces, with limited exemptions.

Three other card rooms in Sacramento County have reopened for gaming since June 12. Stone Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights reopened for table games June 12 and opened its poker room June 15. Capitol Casino in Sacramento and FLB Entertainment Center in Folsom each reopened for poker last Friday. All three establishments remain open as of Tuesday morning, according to their websites and Facebook pages.

The state Department of Public Health as of Monday reported more than 5,500 COVID-19 deaths and nearly 180,000 total infections across California.

Sacramento County has suffered at least 66 deaths and more than 2,240 infections. County health officials have attributed a recent surge, with more than 10 percent of the pandemic’s all-time infection total reported between Saturday and Monday, to indoor gatherings among family and friends. Contact tracers have linked large clusters of cases to things like birthday or graduation parties, rather than reopening businesses, county health leaders told The Bee on Monday.

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