Wyoming Coronavirus Update: UW Cancellations, No Cases Reported Yet

Some UW trips have been cancelled and State Health Dept says testing is now available.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

March 10, 20204 min read

Corona 1
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Some summer study-abroad and “alternative spring break” trips sponsored by the University of Wyoming have been canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, the university has announced.

At the same time, the state Department of Health announced that testing for the illness is now available from the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory.

Officials stressed no cases of coronavirus have been detected in the state.

In a series of messages sent to university faculty, staff and students, the university announced Monday that its summer study-broad trips to China and South Korea would be canceled and its “Alternative Spring Break” trips — trips with an element of public service — to several foreign trips and other states have also been canceled.

“This was an extremely challenging decision to make and comes only after following news for the past several weeks, reviewing the decisions of and consulting with other institutions, considering numerous potential challenges that could arise during the trips and reflecting on the mission and values of the Alternative Breaks program,” Richard Raridon, program coordinator for the university’s Service, Leadership and Community Engagement offices. “Our primary concern is for the health and welfare of our students and our community partners.”

Students participating in the alternative spring breaks were to travel to New Mexico, Utah, California and Jamaica to take part in public service activities related to issues such as immigration, affordable housing, homelessness and community development.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said the cancelation of the spring break programs would probably affect several dozen students.

Summer program to China and South Korea were canceled because of the federal “do not travel” warnings issues for the countries. The university also said it would not allow students to travel to Iran or Italy as part of university activities because of federal travel warnings in effect for those countries. Faculty, staff and scholars wishing to travel to the countries were told they would need to obtain permission from the university’s president.

Faculty, staff and students were also told that anyone returning to the United States from China, South Korea, Iran and Italy would be asked to “self isolate” for 14 days.

Meanwhile, state Department of Health officials announced that COVID-19 testing is now being conducted by the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory.

Officials said even though no cases of the illness have surfaced in Wyoming, the spread of coronavirus is becoming more concerning.

“We believe it’s likely the disease will spread to this state at some point, but do not yet know how widespread the illness will be over time after it does arrive,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer, said in a news release.

The department continued to advise people to avoid close contact with sick people, stay home if sick, clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with germs and wash hands thoroughly.

However, the department advised against the use of facemasks by healthy people.

“Facemasks should be used by people who are ill to help prevent the spread,” the department’s news release said. “Facemasks are also important for health workers and others taking care of infected people.”

Gov. Mark Gordon also urged residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of the illness in a news release that also announced several Wyoming legislators attended a national conference in Maryland that was also attended by a person who has since been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“At this time it does not appear that any members of the Wyoming Legislature had contact with this individual,” he said. “Our state health officer has been notified and has identified these legislators as low risk.”

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Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter