State: 40 Pa. casino workers test positive for COVID

Casino workers in Pennsylvania are testing positive for the coronavirus, and the state is refusing to release specific details about the number of cases at each gaming hall.

Forty positive cases were reported between early June and Aug. 9, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Parx Casino reopened Monday, with changes to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Blackjack is reduced from six to four players. Roulette is down from six to three players. Poker is off limits and no valet is offered, for now.

Pennsylvania’s 12 licensed casinos and racetracks employ more than 16,000 people, making them some of the largest employers in the state. Individual gaming halls were approved for reopening in early June after submitting plans designed to prevent infection among customers and employees

On Aug. 5, this news organization contacted the state, seeking the number of workers who tested positive at each gaming hall and the timeline of reported cases. None of the requested information would identify specific employees.

Responding Aug. 13, the gaming control board said it wouldn’t release such information, citing “employee confidentiality.”

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Right to know requests were later filed with gaming board. Those requests seek aggregate data relating to the coronavirus cases at each casino property and devoid of any details that would identify specific workers.

State regulations require the licensed gaming halls to immediately notify Pennsylvania when a worker tests positive. The casinos all are following proper protocols, said Doug Harbach, communications director for the board.

“In each case, the casino’s pandemic officer reports the matter to the PGCB and the Department of Health the day the employee contacts their employer, the respective casino, to notify their employer that they were tested and the test was presumptively positive,” Harbach said. “Steps are immediately taken to follow appropriate protocols per the (state) Department of Health and CDC including for sanitization and contact tracing conducted through Health officials.”

Employees may not return to work until they receive a negative test result and are determined to have recovered from the virus, Harbach added.

In the past, Pennsylvania has released data about workers at specific companies who tested positive for coronavirus. On the state Department of Health website, records identify specific assisted living and personal care homes by name and the numbers of employees who tested positive at each facility.

In Las Vegas, a union representing some 65,000 casino workers has sued some gaming halls over an alleged failure to protect employees. At least one worker, a porter at the Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, died from the virus in late June.