Pahaska Tepee Resort is limiting services after six employees tested positive for COVID-19 within the last couple of weeks.
Dr. Aaron Billin, Park County public health officer, referred to the Pahaska outbreak as a “cluster” in his Facebook post early Monday morning.
A statement from Pahaska stated symptomatic employees were quarantined before test results were received and will continue to be quarantined for the required time. Only employees who have tested negative for COVID-19 are allowed to work.
As of Saturday, employees have fewer possibilities to interact with the public, since the gift shop is closed and the dining room is now only doing take-out. Guests are limited to one person at check-in, and staff is not taking any new reservations with arrival dates that fall in the next couple of weeks. Pahasaka guests have been informed of the situation and about the changes in service.
“We want to stay open with limited service,” said manager Rob Coe, son of owner Bob Coe. “Our staff has been taking required precautions as they have been required, but that doesn’t totally protect them or the general public.”
Employees who tested positive are staying on site for the summer and thus cannot quarantine anywhere else, and Coe said many don’t even have vehicles. He doesn’t want to have to fully close and wants to keep his staff employed.
“We ask our customers and guests to understand our situation is more complicated than most,” he said. “This is uncharted territory for everyone and the playing field can change rapidly. We thank everyone for their concern and hope we may resume normal operations in the future.”
Bill Crampton, Park County public health nurse, said the county came to Pahaska on Thursday to perform testing because two employees who had tested positive for COVID-19 a couple weeks prior were looking to return to work and were no longer exhibiting symptoms.
Four employees tested Thursday were confirmed positive.
Frank Irby, 62, was working at Pahaska this summer and said those previously confirmed employees were not properly quarantining themselves and were walking around in the lodge.
“I’m pretty sure I got (the virus),” he said. “They are not handling it properly.”
Coe said Irby, who had worked at the lodge for two months, declined to take a free test at Pahaska and left not knowing if he was positive or not.
Irby decided to quit and fly home to Chicago on Saturday.
“God forbid, I find somewhere down the line that I gave it to someone. That’s where it hurts,” Irby said.
He claimed it was a bonfire event attended by one of the employees who later tested positive which gave him the most concern for the potential virus spread. The event included other Pahaska staff and Shoshone Lodge employees.
Irby said many Pahaska employees felt sick in recent weeks. He also said those in the kitchen were not wearing face masks, and there were inconsistencies with who was told to wear a face mask.
“There’s no way people are protected,” he said. “You have all these tourists coming in and you don’t know what they’re bringing or what we’re giving to them.”
Coe said he had not received anything negative from the health department regarding how the business had handled safety concerns.
Crampton said he and Homeland Security director Jack Tatum brought more than enough tests on Thursday, with 25 administered. Irby said staff was given the choice to test, and there was at least one sick employee who refused to take one.
Coe said none of his employees who tested positive have more than mild symptoms.