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Update: Al Simpson ‘Doing Well,’ Expected To Return Home Saturday

in Al Simpson/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson is “doing really well” following treatment for a minor stroke and is expected to return to his Cody home on Saturday, according to his son Colin Simpson.

“He wants to get out of there now,” Colin Simpson said. “Saturday looks like the day.”

The former senator suffered a minor stroke Monday and underwent surgery at Swedish Medical Center in Denver on Tuesday.

Colin Simpson said his father will need some speech therapy and will have in-home care for a brief period while he recovers.

Simpson served as Wyoming’s U.S. Senator for three terms beginning with his election in 1978. Since retiring from the Senate in 1998, the 89-year-old Simpson has been active with a number of organizations, including the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010.

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Cheney, Enzi Applaud Trump Decision To Remove Gray Wolf From Endangered List

in News/wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list by the administration of President Donald Trump on Thursday, prompting responses from officials all over the nation, including Wyoming’s senator and representative.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi both issued statements in support of the delisting.

“Delisting the gray wolf has been a long and bumpy road, but I think everyone should take pride in this announcement today,” Enzi said. “States like Wyoming have shown they are able to effectively manage the gray wolf.

“It is important to remember that the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to get to this point, where a species is fully recovered,” Enzi continued. “I am hopeful that even more species in the future will be able to reach this milestone.”

Gray wolves in Wyoming were removed from the endangered species list in 2017. In other states where the wolves remained on the endangered special list, their management and protection will be taken over by state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals.

“This final rule puts the process of managing the gray wolf back where it belongs – in the capable hands of individual states,” Cheney said. “Over the past decade, our courts have been abused by radical environmental groups filing frivolous lawsuits to prevent states from managing the gray wolf population, despite repeated delisting decisions.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the species for five years to ensure its continued success. The agency made its final determination to remove the wolves from the list based on a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated, as well as efforts by states and tribes to manage the species for healthy populations.

“We are proud of our efforts in Wyoming to conserve the gray wolf’s habitat and population in consultation with federal agencies,” Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman said. “Populations continue to thrive in the northern Rocky Mountains because states implemented scientific measures that balance the needs of the species and our residents at the same time. Today’s decision to delist the gray wolf in the lower-48 states is further proof that population recovery goals can be met when all levels of government work together in a collaborative manner.”

The gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act more than 45 years ago.

Not all of the responses to the delisting were positive.

“Again and again the courts have rejected premature removal of wolf protections,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But instead of pursuing further wolf recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service has just adopted its broadest, most destructive delisting rule yet. The courts recognize, even if the feds don’t, that the Endangered Species Act requires real wolf recovery, including in the southern Rockies and other places with ideal wolf habitat.”

In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.

The gray wolf is the latest in a long list of endangered species recoveries that includes the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 48 other species of animals and plants in U.S. states, territories and waters.

“For over ten years the State of Wyoming, together with our sister states of Idaho and Montana, has demonstrated the ability to manage an ever-increasing delisted wolf population,” Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said. “Wyoming accomplished this with a steady hand despite periodic re-listings mandated by the courts. State management succeeds in large part because state management plans are developed in close collaboration with local, directly affected interests.

“We commend the USFWS for this nation-wide delisting that is long overdue,” Magagna continued. “Successful delisting of this high-profile species will serve to incentivize diverse partnerships that can expedite the recovery of many other listed or imperiled species,” 

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301 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 4,184 Active

in Coronavirus/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming topped 4,100 on Thursday as the state Department of Health reported 301 new confirmed cases of the illness.

The department, in its daily coronavirus update, said the new confirmed cases, along with 60 new probable cases and 131 recoveries, left the state with 4,184 active cases, an increase of 220 from Wednesday.

Albany County had 684 active cases; Laramie County had 624; Campbell had 549; Natrona had 512; Fremont had 363; Park had 299; Sheridan had 259; Lincoln had 96; Sweetwater had 94; Platte had 89; Converse had 83; Uinta had 68; Carbon and Weston had 66; Goshen had 62; Big Horn had 61; Johnson had 52; Teton had 51; Crook had 42; Sublette had 23; Washakie had 19; Hot Springs had 12, and Niobrara had 10.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

Every county in Wyoming except for Washakie reported new confirmed cases Thursday, with Campbell County seeing the biggest increase at 64. Laramie County had 50 new cases and Sheridan County had 32.

The increases brought the total number of confirmed cases seen since the first coronavirus case was detected in Wyoming to 10,589.

The number of probable cases increased by 60 on Thursday to total 1,918.

The 131 newly reported recoveries bring to 8,236 the number of people to recover from either confirmed or probable cases.

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Wyoming Football Coach Craig Bohl’s Contract Extended Through 2024

in News/wyoming cowboys football

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University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman announced on Thursday that UW Athletics has extended head football coach Craig Bohl’s contract by one year through the end of the 2024 college football season.

“Craig (Bohl) has done an outstanding job building our football program into one of the best in the Mountain West Conference over the past six seasons,” Burman said. “I felt it was important for the continued success of our program to extend Coach Bohl’s contract. With this one-year extension, it will enable our coaching staff to continue to recruit at a very high level as they have been, and it sends a message to our current players and potential recruits that our program is going to be strong for years to come.”

“Leia and I are so grateful for the University of Wyoming and the state of Wyoming,” Bohl said. “We appreciate President Seidel and Tom Burman entrusting us with the leadership of Cowboy Football. 

“To our fans, including the UW students, your support of our program over these past few years has meant more than you can know, and has been a big part in us building a successful program. In the midst of all the ups and downs we have had these past few months surrounding this season, it is good for us to have some stability for our student-athletes and in regard to continuing our recruiting efforts. This contract extension is important in providing that sense of stability. We look forward to more great years in the future.”     

Bohl’s extension for the 2024 season will pay him the same amount as 2023.  There is no raise included in the 2024 contract year. 

Currently in his seventh year as head coach of the Cowboys, Bohl led UW to the 2016 Mountain West Conference Mountain Division title and a spot in the 2016 Mountain West Championship Game.

Bohl was named the 2016 Mountain West Coach of the Year in voting by MW head football coaches and media members covering the conference.  From 2016-19, he led Wyoming to four consecutive bowl-eligible seasons, three bowl game appearances and two bowl championships.

The Pokes are seeking their fourth bowl bid in five seasons in 2020 — that would be a first in Wyoming Football history.

The excitement surrounding Cowboy Football from fans was evident last season when Wyoming Football enjoyed the second largest attendance at home games in school history, averaging 23,007 fans per game.

Since 2016, Wyoming has posted a 20-6 (.769) home record, went undefeated in home games in 2019 and has currently won its last eight consecutive home games.

Prior to coming to Wyoming, Bohl led North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS National Championships in 2011, ‘12 and ‘13.  In 2012 and ‘13, Bohl received both The Sports Network Eddie Robinson FCS National Coach of the Year Award and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FCS National Coach of the Year Award. 

He became the first coach in the first 27 years of the Eddie Robinson Award to win it in consecutive seasons.  In 2013, he also received the Liberty Mutual FCS Coach of the Year Award, which is presented in partnership with the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. His other National Coach of the Year honor came in 2006, when he was recognized by the Football Gazette as the FCS National Coach of the Year.

As an assistant coach at his alma mater, Nebraska, he was part of two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) National Championship teams in 1995 and ‘97 as the Huskers’ linebacker coach.

Bohl has compiled an overall head-coaching record of 140-73 (.657) at the collegiate level, including an 8-5 overall record last season at Wyoming.

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Wyoming vs. Hawaii: Pre-Game Pep Talk With Cowboys Legend Ryan Yarborough

in News/wyoming cowboys football

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To get our fans excited ahead of the Wyoming vs. Hawaii football game on Friday, here’s University of Wyoming Alumni Association Executive Director Keener Fry along with former Cowboy wide receiver, Ryan Yarborough, on football memories and encouraging the team ahead of their game.

The Cowboy Alumni Pre-Game Pep Talk for October 30 is sponsored by Black Hills Energy, the UW University Store and Premier Bone and Joint Centers.

The UW Alumni Association has long been part of the Cowboy football pre-game activities connecting with alumni and friends all over the country.

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10 More Wyoming Deaths Tied To Coronavirus; Brings Total to 87

in Coronavirus/News
Coronavirus Wyoming

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The deaths of 10 more Wyoming residents, including three residents of Goshen County long-term care facilities, have been linked to the coronavirus, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Thursday.

The department said seven women and three men died between late September and last week, bringing the total number of Wyoming deaths attributed to the disease to 87.

The department said the Goshen County residents were all older women who lived in long-term care facilities. The department did not specify whether the three lived in the same facility.

One of the women died late last month, while the other two died earlier this month. All three had health conditions known to increase the risk of complications from the coronavirus.

The department said other victims included:

*An Albany County woman who died late last month and had underlying health conditions;

*An older Converse County man who died earlier this month;

*An older Fremont County woman who died last week after being hospitalized in Wyoming and another state for treatment of the illness;

*An older Laramie County woman who died earlier this month, was a resident of a long-term care facility and had underlying health conditions;

*An older Natrona County man who died earlier this month and was a resident of a long-term care facility;

*A Natrona County man who died earlier this month after being hospitalized in Wyoming and another state for treatment of the illness, and

*An older Sheridan County woman who died earlier this month and had underlying health conditions.

Deaths are attributed to coronavirus if the illness was the direct cause of death or was a contributing factor. All Wyoming residents whose deaths are linked to the illness are listed as Wyoming fatalities even if they die in other states.

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Most Roads Into Yellowstone To Close Monday

in News/Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three of the four entrances into Yellowstone National Park, including all of those from Wyoming, will close beginning Monday for winterization reasons.

The west, south and east entrances and all roads in the park, with one exception, will close to vehicle travel at 8 a.m. Monday. This is an annual closure to allow park staff to prepare the roads for the winter season and snowmobile and snowcoach travel, which begins Dec. 15.

The park’s north entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs to the park’s northeast entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, remains open all year, weather permitting.

However, travel east of Cooke City isn’t possible from late fall to spring because the Beartooth Highway between Cooke City and Pilot Creek is closed to vehicle travel.

Officials from Yellowstone National Park did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

These road closures come after a massively successful summer and fall for the park. Yellowstone saw its busiest September in recorded history this year, a 21% increase in visitation over September 2019.

The park was closed from March 24 until May 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two Wyoming entrances opened in May and the Montana entrances opened in June.

Yellowstone saw its second-busiest August on record this year, as well. It should be noted that monthly records have only been kept since 1979.

In addition to the surge in visitors on September, the park also saw an increase in coronavirus cases among park staff. Last month, 16 Yellowstone employees, 0.8% of the entire personnel at the park, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Temporary travel restrictions or closures in the park can occur at anytime, so visitors are encouraged to keep track of updates on the park’s website.

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Wyoming Dept. Of Education Receives Nearly $100K Microsoft Grant For Computer Science Training

in Education/News
Wyoming computer science standards in K-12 education

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In some non-coronavirus related news for Wyoming, the state’s Department of Education announced it received a grant from Microsoft for nearly $100,000.

The WDE received $93,245 in grants from Microsoft’s TechSpark initiative and the Digital Skills for Youth program, which will support computer science teacher training as a part of Boot Up Wyoming, a statewide program launched in 2018 to implement computer science in the state’s K-12 schools.

“Microsoft has been a key partner in Boot Up Wyoming since day one,” said Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Funds from this Digital Skills for Youth grant keep us on-track to deliver the highest-quality Computer Science education to all Wyoming students.” 

A portion of the grant will enable the WDE’s Boot Up Wyoming initiative to provide a second round of strategic training on how computer science can be implemented in school districts, called Strategic CSforALL Resource and Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT) training.

CSforALL is an organization dedicated to making computer science part of every K-12 student’s education. The training provides districts with strategic planning tools to think through what is needed to provide equitable, high-quality computer science education available to all students in their districts. 

In its first year, SCRIPT provided training for 24 school districts working to adopt computer science classes, said Laurel Ballard, the supervisor of the WDE’s student and teacher resources team.

She added with the grant, the WDE will be able to make training available to more districts while continuing the training in the first 24 districts.

“I will take as many (new districts) as want to do it,” she said.

The biggest benefit of the program is that it has allowed school districts to compare notes on their challenges and successes as they implement computer science classes.

“It gives them the chance to come together,” she said. “They come together and learn together.”

The grant will also be used to provide resources for the Wyoming chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), a group of professional computer science teachers that has emerged as a valuable training resource for the state’s teachers, the WDE said.

In addition, the grant will provide the WDE with support for developing high-quality computer science micro-credentials for secondary teachers and students.

“Wyoming was one of the first states to implement computer science education in grades K-12 – now almost every state offers it,” Balow said. “This funding helps us remain pioneers by enabling the WDE to continue to provide professional development to educators focused around Computer Science education.”

Much discussion has been had regarding the computer science implementations over the last couple years. By law, these standards have to be implemented by the 2022-23 school year.

Some districts like Laramie County School District No. 1, Platte County School District No. 2 and Sheridan County School District No. 1 are already working to implement standards, but other schools will need more time to learn them and incorporate them into the curriculum. 

Last year, state Attorney General Bridget Hill addressed the Wyoming State Board of Education to provide some recommendations about how the standards could be better written before their implementation into statewide school mandates.

“There are three types of state standards: content, performance and graduation,” Hill wrote in her recommendation. “The proposed computer science standards use three different labels (priority, supporting and enhanced). The word ‘benchmarks’ can refer to either the discrete items of knowledge that compose the standards or the grade-level or grade-band targets where those items must be taught.” 

In her conclusion, Hill noted that just because these standards will be mandatory for all schools, this doesn’t mean all students will have to learn all of them.

She reiterated that the board should determine graduation requirements to include the computer science standards component and content benchmarks that should be mastered in lower grade levels and only create performance standards for those benchmarks. 

“Wyoming’s vision is that every student has the opportunity to be met where they are — at their skill-level, in their school — and be inspired to learn how technology works and how to build solutions to society’s challenges. We strongly support that vision,” Dennis Ellis, manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark Wyoming, said in a statement on Thursday.

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After Covid Hits Home, Cody Man Changes View

in Coronavirus/News

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Joe Kondelis was out of state when he started feeling sick. By the time he tested positive for COVID-19, the Cody resident was being hit hard by the symptoms.

“It has absolutely whipped my [butt],” he said in announcing his diagnosis.

And he cautions skeptics, “It’s scary how contagious it is.”

“I’m guilty in thinking this was merely an overreaction to a new cold virus,” Kondelis said. “I was one of those skeptics and guys who thought I wouldn’t get sick or be asymptomatic.”

Kondelis, sales manager for Tanager Beverages and president of the Western Bear Foundation, is in his 40s and in great shape. He goes to the gym at least four days a week and stays active on the weekends. He’s a noted hunter and capable of navigating terrain where many fail. Yet, the disease has humbled him.

“I’ve experienced every symptom under the sun and a few that aren’t even listed,” he said. “It’s such a yo-yo virus. One day you’re fine, next day you feel like you’re dying.”

Kondelis’ condition is complicated by guilt. He fears he infected his three closest friends while they camped during a hunting trip last week. His family are prisoners in their house. His daughter can’t go to school, play sports, trick or treat or see friends or family for two weeks because they’re living in a house with positive cases.

“It’s a huge burden on family,” he said.

The impact followed him to work. One by one, employees started showing symptoms. Kondelis called Park County Public Health and, under their recommendations, scheduled tests of all employees at the distribution company.

He went public with the situation in an effort to be totally transparent. After getting the results back, two more positive cases were identified. All staff currently working have received negative test results.

The company was forced to look into where staffers with positive tests had been and ultimately determined that no infected employees came into close contact with retailers or other employees while they would have been the most contagious.

“In the time in quarantine you’re left thinking about contact with others,” Kondelis said, “who you may have infected, your lack of diligence in reducing virus spread and how it has affected the lives of co-workers, friends, family.”

But even now, 10 days after first feeling symptoms from the virus, Kondelis is still physically suffering. There could be long-term damage, like heart and lung damage or long-term issues with his nervous system. As he sits in isolation, all he can think about is wishing he had taken this all seriously.

Cody Regional Health

Dr. Aaron Billin, Park County health officer, did the testing at Tanager Beverages. He said the company did it right and feels minds were changed through the process.

Typically, he said, minds are changed as cases in their inner circle of friends and family help them realize the virus isn’t a political issue.

“No amount of browbeating will change people’s minds,” Billin said of online COVID-related communications with the public. “Now I hope to convince one person at a time.”

One change has been the amount of negative comments on his Facebook posts. When he started his social media campaign, there were a lot of trolls. Now, as people have started to hear stories of the effects of the virus from people they know, the trolls are slowly diminishing.

“The virus will be here the day after the election,” Billin said Wednesday.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited Billings on Tuesday and Riverton Wednesday. While in Fremont County, she met with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and participated in a roundtable with community, tribal and health officials. She’s advocating for wearing masks and routine testing to identify those who are infected, yet asymptomatic.

“The only thing that will prevent the next wave is us,” Birx said at a recent appearance, adding, “If you wait until people have symptoms, you’ve waited too long.”

Wyoming ranks among the top states of people refusing to wear a mask, though health officials have repeatedly urged people to wear facial coverings in public settings if physical distancing isn’t possible.

Kondelis is a “new believer” in masks, which have been shown in studies by the Centers for Disease Control to slow the spread of the virus.

“I don’t wish this on anyone. If there is anything you can do to keep yourself healthy and safe and prevent lasting effects on friends and family, I encourage you to do so,” Kondelis said in a Wednesday interview. “I appreciate and really like the ability to choose what to do about masks; I’m not for much government oversight, and I like the ability to make our own decisions. I don’t want people to think I’m a crazy political mask guy.”

“This whole thing has changed my perspective on it,” he continued. “I will choose to wear a mask, if not for me, for others.”

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Al Simpson ‘Doing Well’ After Minor Stroke

in Al Simpson/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson was doing well Wednesday in a Denver hospital where he underwent surgery following a minor stroke, according to his son.

Colin Simpson said his 89-year-old father suffered the stroke Monday and underwent surgery Tuesday at Swedish Medical Center in Denver to remove a clot from his carotid artery.

“So they removed the clot and I talked to him this morning and he’s doing pretty well,” said Colin Simpson, a Cody attorney and former member of Wyoming’s House of Representatives. “They’re still doing additional imaging and tests to figure out what the source of the stroke was and whether there are any other risks.”

Simpson was joined at the hospital by his wife Ann, daughter Susan and brother Pete, a former University of Wyoming official.

Colin Simpson said when he spoke with his father, the former senator asked about the World Series and about getting a ballot for the upcoming general election.

“One thing he wanted yesterday was to ‘Get my ballot,’” Colin said. “So he’s doing pretty well.”

Colin Simpson said his family has heard from many people extending good wishes to his father.

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“We all want to express our appreciation to all the people who have called, emailed and texted,” he said. “We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support.”

Simpson, the son of a former Wyoming governor, served in Wyoming’s Legislature before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978. He served three terms, rising to the position of Republican whip in the body.

Although a longtime defender of Republican causes, Simpson was known for his ability to work with Democratic leaders in the Senate to hammer out compromises on contentious issues. 

His support of abortion rights and the rights of gays and lesbians has sometimes put him at odds with more conservative members of the Republican Party. 

While in Congress, Simpson’s plainspoken manner and homespun wit made him a favorite of reporters, with whom he had a running battle of words. A book published after his time in the Senate, “Right in the Old Gazoo: A Lifetime of Scrapping with the Press,” detailed some of his skirmishes with the Wyoming and national media.

Since leaving Congress, Simpson has been involved in a number of issues, including the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created in 2010 to offer recommendations on how to rein in federal spending.

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