By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed announced on Wednesday, March 18 that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will be closing on Fridays until further notice.
The Tribe will remain open Monday through Thursday, operating for normal business hours on those days. In the announcement, Chief Sneed also said that all building lobbies will be closed as well, starting on that Wednesday. Access points to buildings will be locked, and departments have been asked to leave signage outside in order to provide contact for services. This is his latest move to reduce community risk among the COVID-19 outbreak.
“With all the stress surrounding this situation, I have seen the impact on our tribal employees. In an effort to help all of our employees have the time to de-stress and to limit their overall contact with others the EBCI will be on a 4-day workweek starting immediately,” Chief Sneed said in an email to all employees. “This will not affect employee compensation, however, as employees will be paid for each of those Fridays moving forward.”
This decision comes after many major closures in the area over the last week. Chief Sneed announced on Monday, March 16 that the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Valley River Casino & Hotel would each be closing for at least two weeks. Cherokee Central Schools, as well as all public schools in North Carolina, closed for at least two weeks over the weekend. N.C. Governor Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday, March 17 that all dine-in services at restaurants and bars would be ceased. The N.C. Courts and Cherokee Tribal Court are limiting cases heard as well in order to reduce traffic in the court houses.
Specifically, with schools and similar operations closing, Chief Sneed has allowed for parents to take additional ‘emergency sick leave’ to spend time with their kids and find alternative options for the future. This leave is separate from basic sick leave and will not affect those earned hours.
“I issued a statement giving all employees impacted by the loss of childcare the opportunity to take emergency sick leave,” said Chief Sneed. “We will be extending this emergency sick leave through the end of this pay period, Sunday March 29, granting those parents sick leave who must stay home with their children.”
Chief Sneed said he will keep an eye on the shifting landscape, and that any further updates will be provided on or before Wednesday, March 25.