The recent increase in COVID cases has the state’s health care workers — and its communities in general — scrambling to keep up with the ever-changing conditions that the virus creates.
In northwest Wyoming, Cody Regional Health has converted an entire wing into a COVID treatment ward — something that has not occurred since last winter.
As of Tuesday, the COVID wing was at full capacity with all 8 single beds in use. But the number of patients is changing day by day, according to Barb Mullaney, inpatient nursing director for the hospital’s acute care and critical care units.
“We are seeing an increase in COVID inpatients, which is causing a bed crunch,” she said. “So we’re limiting visitation to keep our staff safe, so we can keep our staffing up to take care of the patients we do have. It’s hour by hour, whether we have beds or not.”
As of Wednesday, 99 coronavirus patients were in hospitals across the state, compared to 52 one month ago. Hospitalization for COVID treatment across the state peaked in November at 247.
The number of people visiting emergency rooms with respiratory illnesses is also increasing.
“We’re seeing a lot of people coming in with common complaints of headaches, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, congestion, sinus infection related symptoms,” said Megan Moss, director of Cody Regional Health’s Emergency Department.
Moss said not every patient visiting the ER gets tested for COVID — but if the provider recommends testing, a rapid results test will be administered and medical staff will take appropriate steps depending on the outcome.
And Mullaney adds that the positivity rate is climbing.
“I think 90% of what we tested yesterday (Tuesday) came back positive. But overall within our system, we have a 15% positivity rate,” she explains. “In order for us to go back to visitation and scaling back some of our precautions, we need to be less than 10%.”
Statewide, the 14-day average for positive test results stood at almost 6.4%
The increase in COVID cases in Cody is creating difficulties for some local businesses as well.
At the Irma Hotel, built by Western showman Buffalo Bill Cody, managers were forced to close the hotel’s restaurant because of the illness, said Mike Darby, one of the hotel’s owners.
The closure was just one of several changes the hotel had to make after some employees tested positive for COVID.
“We made modifications to how we operate our business,” Darby said. “We tried keeping our bar open, as we had no cases there. We kept our original lobby, which is basically the lounge, and our porch services open. We had shut down the restaurant due to not having enough employees to operate the restaurant properly.”
But it’s not just employee issues that have caused headaches for business owners. Darby reported that the pandemic has led to delays with supply chains, so finding simple parts to repair equipment is difficult.
“We had to replace an entire cooler – thousands of dollars – because we couldn’t get a part,” he says. “We can’t get certain chicken products, or things like corn dogs. Some customers are patient and understanding, but some aren’t.”
With the new cases increasing in number, Mullaney urged residents to use caution — once again.
“As a community, we need to go back to social distancing,” she said. “Washing your hands, wearing a mask when you’re in public, and just trying to decrease your exposure, so you’re not getting sick. We have the vaccination now, but you may still may get sick with that — you just won’t get as sick. And so that could keep you out of the hospital.”