Natrona County Health Officer: Virus Cases Are Falsely Low, “We Haven’t Flattened Any Curve”

Dr. Mark Dowell said reports of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming are "falsely low," leading people to believe the virus is not as serious or deadly as it actually is.

Ellen Fike

April 16, 20203 min read

Natrona county press conf

Wyoming has not “flattened the curve” in regards to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, according to Natrona County’s health officer.

Dr. Mark Dowell, speaking during a news conference in Casper on Wednesday, said plainly that he believes reports of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming are “falsely low,” leading people to believe the virus is not as serious or deadly as it actually is.

He firmly stated that social distancing guidelines should remain in place for the time being.

“We’re going to continue to look at trends, but we expect this to turn around and go up again,” he said. “We haven’t haven’t flattened any curve at all, but also, we don’t know what the curve will be. We have to assume it will get worse. We don’t want to be lackadaisical and have people die.”

He pointed out that the virus was infected a large number of younger, healthy people in the state, most of whom will recover from it. However, a lack of available tests makes it impossible to say how many people in the state actually have the virus, he said.

Dowell added that while models show the virus will hit its peak around late April, the date isn’t definite. The outcome could be affected by the state’s rural setting.

“We really don’t know what this virus is going to do exactly in Wyoming in general,” he said. “That peak may be smaller than expected or may be more prolonged or may not occur until later in May.”

During a virtual town hall meeting hosted by AARP Wyoming on Wednesday evening, Sen. John Barrasso cited Dowell’s comments about flattening the curve.

The senator said he’s been trying to figure out whether or not the state or country have hit a peak in coronavirus cases, but it seems more people have recovered and the amount of new cases continues to slow every day.

“Just a little earlier today, Dr. Mark Dowell says we haven’t flattened the curve, he says we really don’t know,” Barrasso said. “When I look at the numbers…the good news from Wyoming’s standpoint is the University of Washington predicted a couple weeks ago that we would have 240 deaths. As of Monday, it’s now been predicted we would have 34 deaths from coronavirus.”

The large decline in the amount of predicted deaths is due to staunch social distancing, the senator added. While he couldn’t say if Wyoming or the United States has hit its peak, he was encouraged to see the recoveries going up.

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Ellen Fike