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As Coronavirus Cases Rise, 100s Line Up As Some Oklahoma Casinos Reopen

OKLAHOMA CITY (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Just a few miles from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, hundreds of people stood in line Tuesday waiting to enter a casino that has been allowed to reopen with social distancing restrictions and sanitation safeguards in place to protect against a resurgence of the coronavirus.

"It was time for everyone to get back to work, we were ready to get back to work," said Sam Caruso, general manager of the Thunderbird Casino. "It just seemed like the right time to do it. We decided to do what we call a soft opening without a lot of fanfare."

The reopened casino in Norman limited the number of patrons to 200-225, while a sister facility in Shawnee allowed about 100 inside — both about one-third of capacity, Caruso said. No table games are open, he said.

Those inside must wear masks and maintain 6-feet of distance from others, although couples are allowed to sit together, he said.

"Every guest that has come in the facility has been very appreciative. They understand and when we tell them to put a mask on they put their mask on," Caruso said.

Several other tribal casinos in the state remain closed. Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said in that tribe's casinos will remain closed at least through Friday -- that includes the WinStar World Casino just across the Texas state line that is expected to remain closed through May 29.

"Health professionals advise that recent measures enacted to help mitigate the spread of the virus are beginning to work because of widespread participation," Anoatubby said in a statement.

The Cherokee, Choctaw and Muscogee (Creek) nation casinos also remain closed.

"Local health benchmarks do not suggest that now is the time to reopen ... the Muscogee (Creek) Nation casinos," Principal Chief David Hill said in a statement.

Of approximately 130 tribal casinos statewide, five have reopened on a limited basis, according to Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association director Sheila Morago. Nationwide, some 500 Native American casinos have shut down.

The state Health Department on Tuesday reported more than 4,700 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 278 deaths, an increase from at least 4,613 cases and 274 deaths reported Monday.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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