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26 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Wednesday

in Coronavirus/News
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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases seen in Wyoming since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March grew by 26 on Wednesday, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The department, in its daily coronavirus update, said 11 counties reported new cases on Wednesday, boosting the state’s total number of cases seen since the pandemic began to 1,404.

New cases were reported in Albany, Big Horn, Fremont, Goshen, Laramie, Natrona, Park, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta and Washakie counties. Park County saw the largest daily increase with five new cases.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of cases seen since the pandemic began stood at 331 in Fremont County; 198 in Laramie County; 154 in Uinta County; 131 in Natrona County; 117 in Teton County; 114 in Sweetwater County; 68 in Park; 62 in Campbell; 41 in Albany; 37 in Washakie; 32 in Lincoln; 21 in Big Horn; 19 in Sheridan; 16 in Carbon, Converse and Johnson; nine in Hot Springs; seven in Crook and Goshen; three in Platte and Sublette and one in Niobrara and Weston.

The Health Department’s case totals include all cases confirmed through laboratory testing since the first case was seen in Wyoming on March 12. The totals do not take into account recoveries or deaths attributed to the illness. So far, the deaths of 21 Wyoming residents have been related to coronavirus, including a Laramie County man whose death was reported Tuesday.

The Health Department said 1,291 patients have recovered from coronavirus since mid-March, including 1,023 with confirmed cases and 268 with probable cases. The total is an increase of 17 from Tuesday.

A recovery is defined as occurring when a person goes three days without a fever and is showing improvements in respiratory problems.

The number of probable cases on Wednesday was 336. A probable case is one in which a patient shows coronavirus symptoms and has been exposed to someone with a known case, but has not been tested for the illness.

Wyoming has 430 active coronavirus cases, including 362 among patients with confirmed cases and 68 among patients with probable cases.

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Gordon: Coronavirus Cases Increase “Concerning”

in Coronavirus/Mark Gordon/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon described the current spike of coronavirus cases across the state of Wyoming as “concerning” during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Gordon started off the conference by listing off the current facts about the virus in Wyoming: 1,404 lab-confirmed cases and 336 probable cases and 1,291 recoveries as of Wednesday.

“The numbers keep rising and that’s of concern,” Gordon said. “Many counties are reporting increases. We have 26 news cases today and there are hundreds of people under quarantine just here in Laramie County.”

Gordon pointed out a specific incident in Big Horn County in which a day care center had to close, forcing parents to take time off from work and impacting grandparents.

The governor reiterated that Wyoming residents should continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and use good hygiene to protect both national security and business liabilities.

Gordon discussed his recent trip to Dubois over the holiday weekend, noting “most” people were respectful and practiced social distancing or wore masks while he and First Lady Jennie Gordon were in town.

“I think Wyoming understands it is important that we make every attempt to make sure that we wear a mask if we can, social distance as much as we can, make sure we use good hygiene to protect … our business vitality,” he said. “Wyoming people have a sensibility about them, a common sense nature.”

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Gordon Says State Will Cut Staff

in Coronavirus/Economy/Mark Gordon/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and his state agency heads will begin their work this week to cut the state’s biennium budget to deal with projected revenue shortfalls of $1.5 billion, he said Wednesday.

And the governor warned residents during a news conference that they will have to expect both program and personnel reductions.

“Some of the things that are on the (list for cuts) will be funding for things like mental health, sex offender programs, children, elder care … travel out-of-state for some of our agencies,” he said. “These are some of the many very difficult choices we will have to make and there will be reductions in force. None of that is good.”

Wyoming’s Legislature approved a budget for the 2021-22 biennium, which began on July 1, during a budget session that ended in March.

Shortly after, a collapse in mineral prices led state officials to predict that tax revenues for the biennium would fall $1.5 billion short of earlier projections, requiring budget cuts.

Gordon asked all of his agency heads to submit ideas for reducing their budgets by 20% and said Wednesday he has asked the officials to propose additional cuts of 10%.

“The cuts we’ve talked about here are getting close to the bone,” he said. “In some cases we really are talking about the bone. We will talk about some very precious programs and some very valuable people. I don’t look forward to any of this.”

The state’s agencies will work to improve the efficiency with which they provide services, Gordon said, to avoid reducing those services more than necessary.

In the upcoming election, Gordon said, candidates for the Legislature need to understand the challenges the state faces so they can be prepared to act accordingly during the Legislature’s general session in 2021.

“This election is essential to make sure we have quality candidates who understand the challenges and choices we have to make … in a way we can emerge from this, as I know we can, successfully and stronger,” he said. “Our session coming up in January will be one of the most important sessions that this state has ever seen.”

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Court Ruling: Yellowstone Grizzly Trophy Hunts To Be Disallowed

in News/Yellowstone
5203

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed a federal court decision ruling prohibiting trophy hunts for grizzly bears in Wyoming and Idaho.

The appeals court agreed with the 2018 decision of a U.S. District Court in Montana that President Donald Trump’s administration illegally stripped Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone grizzly bears.

In ruling that Yellowstone grizzly bears must remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals pointed to the lack of “concrete, enforceable mechanisms” to “ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly.”

The ruling explains an “increase population size” is “required to ensure long-term viability” and describes the grizzly bear as “an iconic symbol of the Rocky Mountain west.”

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone-region grizzly bear population from the federal endangered and threatened species list because the grizzly population in the area had met objectives to consider the species recovered. Following the action, grizzly hunts that would have allowed for up to 23 bears to be killed outside of Yellowstone National Park were announced.

The Northern Cheyenne tribe and conservation groups challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision and a Montana federal court ruling in 2018 blocked the hunts.

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Enzi Co-Sponsors Bill To Increase Government Efficiency

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, has signed on to legislation that aims to increase efficiency in the federal government.

According to a news release, the Unnecessary Agency Regulations Reduction Act would create a process to use a joint resolution from Congress to eliminate multiple regulations originating from federal agencies. It is intended to to modify, consolidate or repeal outdated, duplicative or unnecessary agency regulations.

Under the proposal, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs would be required every year to submit a list of outdated, duplicative or burdensome agency regulations that could be modified, consolidated or repealed.

The regulations on the list would be included in the president’s unified agenda. The list would then be transmitted to the relevant congressional committees to review. A final list of regulations and recommendations for action on them would be submitted to Congress as a joint resolution, which would be eligible for expedited consideration.

“Congress should always be looking to streamline the federal government so it is more efficient and accountable to hardworking taxpayers,” Enzi said in the release. “Wasting taxpayer dollars is unacceptable and our nation’s spending crisis makes it even more important to reduce needless and duplicative government programs.”

The legislation is led by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, and also co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, Steve Daines, R-Montana, Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, David Perdue, R-Georgia, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina.

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Wyoming Department of Corrections To Test All Inmates, Staff For Coronavirus

in Coronavirus/Criminal justice/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Corrections is planning to test all of its staff, contract employees and inmates beginning next week for the coronavirus due to a spike in cases in the state.

According to a news release from the department and a notice to the inmate population, Director Bob Lampert explained there had been no reported cases in either the staff or inmates at DOC institutions as of Wednesday.

However, due to an uptick in coronavirus cases in various Wyoming communities, officials felt that mass testing was the best measure.

“We … want to continue to do all we can to prevent its introduction among our incarcerated adults and the staff who supervise them,” the release said.

Testing will start next week and initially, the staff will conduct 100% testing at each facility, beginning with the Honor Farm in Riverton, the Women’s Center in Lusk, the Honor Conservation Camp in Newcastle and then the two larger facilities, the Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington and the State Penitentiary in Rawlins.

Staff from Corizon, a prison health care company, will conduct the tests, which will be sent to the appropriate laboratory and paid for by the Wyoming Department of Health. Tests will be completed at no cost to the individual and won’t be submitted for insurance claims.

Results are expected to come back within two days of samples being sent to the lab. Movement between housing units, as well as to and from the tested facility, will be limited for a few days, pending test results.

Inmates arriving at an already-tested facility from another location that hasn’t undergone 100% testing will be quarantined and tested, even if they are arriving from another DOC facility.

If a positive test result is found, immediate action will be taken to initiate contact tracing and containment protocols, the release said.

The tests are required. Inmates who refuse testing will be placed under a mandatory quarantine for 14 days with subsequent testing opportunities, even if they don’t have symptoms.

Inmates with symptoms will be quarantined, as will inmates newly received from outside of the WDOC. These two groups will be tested twice during the quarantine process and prior to release into the general population.

Lampert said he was hopeful that the testing would be completed by the end of August. Following the completion of the first round of tests at an institution, ongoing surveillance testing of 20% of the staff and inmates will be conducted every other week until the DOH determines it is no longer necessary.

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Gordon Accepts “Wear A Mask” Challenge From Colorado Governor, Challenges Idaho

in Coronavirus/Mark Gordon/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to tell the world why he wears a mask to protect the spread of the coronavirus.

Gordon’s tweet came in response to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ challenge, where he asked governors across the country to make a short video stating why they wear masks during the pandemic.

Polis sent the challenge out to Gordon on July 2.

“I’m wearing a mask as a sign of respect to my fellow citizens, a way to help keep them safe,” Gordon explained in the short video. “Wearing a mask when you can’t social distance is an easy courtesy to your neighbors and fellow citizens. It’s a way to keep our businesses open and our economy on the rebound.”

Gordon then challenged Idaho Gov. Brad Little to participate in the challenge next. As of late Wednesday morning, Little hadn’t responded.

Wyoming officials have never issued a statewide order requiring the use of face masks. However, Jackson officials recently approved a city ordinance requiring those inside of town shops to wear masks. Laramie officials are considering a similar ordinance.

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C.J. Box Announces Latest Joe Pickett Novel

in News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Famed Wyoming author C.J. Box on Wednesday announced his latest novel in the Joe Pickett series will be published March 2, 2021 and that it is available for pre-order through Amazon now.

“Dark Sky” is the 21st book in the series following the fictional Wyoming game warden.

According to the plot description on the Amazon listing, Pickett must accompany a Silicon Valley CEO on a hunting trip, but quickly discovers he’s the one being hunted.

“The governor of Wyoming gives Joe the thankless assignment of taking a tech baron on a hunting trip. Unbeknownst to them, as they trek further into the wilderness, a hunter is hot on their heels. Joe must rely on his wits and his knowledge of the outdoors to protect himself and his charge,” the preview reads.

“Meanwhile, when Joe’s closest friend Nate Romanowski and his own daughter Sheridan learn of the threat to his life, they follow him into the woods to rescue him, and all three come together for one final showdown,” it reads.

Box is a New York Times bestselling author and published the first book in the Pickett series, “Open Season,” in 2001. He recently announced that his book series following Cassie Dewell would be picked up for a series on ABC this fall.

The Wyoming native has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he owned an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie.

In 2008, Box was awarded the “BIG WYO” Award from the state tourism industry. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West.

He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and is currently serving on the Wyoming Tourism Board. He lives in Wyoming.

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Wyoming Economy: Shortest But Most Severe Recession in History

in Coronavirus/Economy/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Early in what some economists called the most severe economic recession in history, Wyoming’s economy posted mixed results.

A report from the Economic Analysis Division of the state Department of Administration and Information said that while Wyoming personal income and home prices were up in the first quarter of 2020 over 2019 figures, employment declined, along with taxable sales, tourism and interest revenue.

The quarterly report on economic conditions nationally and in Wyoming said economists believe that the country’s recession sparked by the coronavirus pandemic may be over with the reopening of businesses across the nation.

“The quick reopening of businesses across the country catalyzed the turnaround and the three-month downturn — March through May — will be the shortest in recession-dating history, but it will be among the most severe,” the report said. “Real (gross domestic product) is expected to decline by more than 12% peak to trough between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, approximately three times the loss experienced during the Great Recession.”

The report on conditions in Wyoming during the first quarter of the year — January through March — said unemployment had already started to rise before the illness led to restrictions on businesses in March.

In the first quarter, employment declined slightly from the first quarter of 2019, by 1,090 jobs, 0.4%, while the unemployment rate moved to 3.8%, slightly higher than the national average.

“Job declines occurred in about half of industrial sectors where … mining (including oil and gas extraction) lost the largest number of jobs, mainly to do the reduced drilling activities because of declining oil and natural gas prices,” the report said.

Also posting a decline in the first quarter was taxable sales, which fell by 5.7% from 2019 to total $4.2 billion.

The report once again pointed to falling numbers in the mining sector as largely responsible for the overall decline, with sales of related equipment and supplies dropping by 27.2% from 2019.

Most of the state’s counties, 13, saw an increase in taxable sales, with Niobrara County more than doubling its sales compared to the first quarter of 2019 — 162.7%.

However, Sublette, Johnson and Sweetwater county sales declined by more than 30% from the previous year, “mostly reflecting a slowdown in conventional natural gas exploration.”

In tourism, the report said the number of visits to Yellowstone National Park in the first quarter dropped by 5.2% from 2019 and visits to Grand Teton National Park declined by 4.9%.

“The complete closure of these two national parks in late March may be a factor for the visitation change,” the report said.

Statewide lodging sales also declined by 9.9% from the first quarter of 2019, it said.

Agriculture prices fell slightly in the first quarter of 2020 from 2019, the report said.

Investment income to the state from its Permanent Mineral Trust Fund totaled $55.3 million in the first quarter of 2020, a 26.4% drop from the first quarter of 2019.

However, there were several bright spots in the first quarter, the report said.

Personal income grew by 2.8% in the first quarter over 2019 figures. However, the increase was slightly below the national average increase of 3.3%.

In addition, the price of a single-family home increased by 9.9% over the year, the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2007.

In addition, mortgage delinquency and foreclosure rates were lower than the rates seen in 2019.

However, the number of permits issued to build new homes fell by 3.5% from last year.

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Health Department Reports 21st Coronavirus Death in Wyoming

in Coronavirus/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Laramie County man has become the 21st Wyoming resident to die as a result of the coronavirus, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department, in a news release, said the man had no apparent health conditions that would have put him at a higher risk of complications from the disease.

The last Wyoming deaths attributed to coronavirus were reported by the Health Department on June 19. The two people who died were both residents of a Washakie County long-term care facility where an outbreak occurred.

The Department of Health reminded residents to take steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, including staying 6 feet away from others when possible and wearing face masks when social distancing is not possible.

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