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SAN DIEGO – One by one, San Diego’s Native American gaming tribes are announcing plans to reopen their respective facilities to the public, with some reopening as soon as next week.

But county officials made it abundantly clear Wednesday: they’re not on board with that.

“We are very concerned,” county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. “We want to make it perfectly clear that we do not agree with the reopening of casinos on May 18. We feel the health officer’s order extends to our tribal nations in this particular situation, and we are working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to address this issue further.”

A number of local casinos including Sycuan Casino Resort, Viejas Casino and Resort and Valley View Casino and Hotel already have announced details about reopening. The first will be Viejas, which said this week they are reopening the casino on Monday.

Viejas Casino

Some, such as Barona Resort and Casino, have said they don’t yet have a specific reopening date but have developed individual plans to ensure the health and wellness of the tribe and of the public. Others including Jamul, Pala, Pauma, and Harrah’s have not said when they will reopen.

In a recent letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, tribal leaders said they’re making reopening decisions based on the state’s reopening criteria, using it to develop policies to protect public health such as requiring masks be worn and conducting temperature checks.

That’s still not going to be enough, Wooten said. In the county’s Wednesday news conference, she said the county plans to work with the CDC to prevent the reopenings — though, it remains unclear what, if anything, county officials could do stop potential reopenings on tribal land.

“If they do open and ignore our request not to open, we would have to ensure they put stringent practices in place to help protect the public’s health,” she said. “But opening up casinos will cause a risk to our public’s health. That is very clear. It creates a gathering of individuals.”

Following the news conference, Adam Day, chief administrative officer of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in El Cajon, said in an emailed statement that the tribe disagrees “with any legal interpretation that allows the county any jurisdiction over activities on a tribal reservation.”

Sycuan shares some of the county’s concerns, Day said, but the tribe took issue with Wooten using the press conference to voice those concerns.

“(T)hat is why our re-opening plan incorporates all federal, state and county public health guidance and industry best practices – over 700 different requirements to be approved by our regulators,” Day said. “We are highly confident our patrons and employees will be as safe as possible as we slowly re-open our facility in phases over time.”