San Diego-area casinos set to reopen this week with Viejas up first

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SAN DIEGO — Several San Diego-area casinos are planning to reopen to the public this week for the first time in more than two months after closing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine opens its doors at 8 a.m. Monday with new cleaning protocols and guidelines including employees and visitors being required to submit to a non-contact temporal scan prior to entry. The casino, run by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, announced a temporary closure in March with tribes representing the Barona, Campo, Jamul, Sycuan casinos.

Viejas plans to close each day from 3-7 a.m. for a deep cleaning and sterilization treatment, General Manager James Wild said in a note on the casino’s website. Guests also will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing on the property.

“While Viejas has always maintained the highest level of cleanliness and safety, we have taken advantage of the recent closure to inspect, clean, and sanitize every inch of the property,” Wild said.

Others set for reopenings this week include Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon (May 20), Jamul Casino (May 21) and Valley View Casino & Hotel (May 22) in Valley Center.

The openings come amid recent pushback from local leaders who have questioned whether it is too soon for casinos to be back as other industries in the state remain closed or otherwise limited by COVID-19 restrictions. On Wednesday, San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said the county does not agree with casinos reopening, saying the decision makes leaders “very concerned.”

The following day, Wooten walked back those remarks after meeting with tribal leaders and reviewing their reopening plans.

“It’s very clear to us that the tribal nations have sovereign authority,” she said.

But the decision raised some eyebrows at the state level as well. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter to tribal leaders on Friday, urging them to consider remaining closed until surrounding jurisdictions meet Phase 3 criteria for reopening.

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