People who were at the Silver Reef Casino Buffet on Tuesday, March 10, may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus if they were close enough to someone who has tested positive for the illness.
There was a potential exposure to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on that day, according to a joint news release from the Lummi Indian Business Council and the Whatcom County Health Department.
Lummi Public Health Department and the Whatcom County Health Department are investigating the potential exposure for Lummi Nation and Whatcom County residents, both agencies said in a release on Friday, March 13.
Lummi Indian Business Council owns the casino near Ferndale.
Whatcom County confirmed its first case of novel coronavirus Tuesday, March 10, in a woman in her 60s. She is the only Whatcom County resident who has tested positive for the illness so far.
On Thursday, March 12, the Lummi Indian Business Council announced that one of its employees, who lives in King County and is not a tribal member, tested positive for COVID-19.
On Friday, March 13, Western Washington University announced that a construction worker helping to build a new residence hall tested positive for the coronavirus. The contract worker, who lives in Snohomish County, had been commuting to Bellingham.
It’s unknown which case the exposure is connected to.
The possible exposure was learned about while officials interviewed someone who tested positive for COVID-19 to track their movements and to find out who may have been their close contacts. Such people will be contacted and provided with information on how to protect their health and that of the wider community, officials said.
“We know that COVID-19 is most likely to be transmitted to close contacts of a person with COVID-19. This is when people have been with someone with COVID-19 for at least 10 minutes within six feet of that person or had contact with any secretions through being coughed on or in direct physical contact,” the release states.
People who didn’t have close contact with the person who tested positive is at no greater risk of infection than the general public, officials said.
People who were at the Silver Reef Casino Buffet on Tuesday, March 10, and have concerns can call the Whatcom County Health Department at 360-778-6100 or the Lummi Public Health Line at 360-383-8251.
The casino was open on Friday, although its buffet was closed.
On its Facebook page, the casino indicated that it was doing deeper cleaning, including of frequently touched surfaces such as machines and door handles, and providing extra hand sanitizers in the casino and to guests.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is the name of the illness that first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, before spreading to other countries, including the U.S. It is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2.
The disease is spread through contact between people within six feet of each other — what’s referred to as close contact — especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.
The CDC says it’s possible to catch COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Symptoms — cough, fever, difficulty breathing — may occur two days to two weeks after exposure. Although most of the cases have been mild, the disease is especially dangerous for the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.
▪ doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus. Call a hotline at 1-800-525-0127 for questions about what is happening in Washington state, how the virus spreads, and what to do if you have symptoms. Phone lines are staffed 6 a.m. to 10 p.m, seven days a week.