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Park County Health Doc to Skeptics: “The Time for Arguing Against Mask-Wearing Has Long Since Past”

in Coronavirus/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Park County Public Health Department had strong words for those who continue to deny the value of social distancing and face mask usage in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

“The time for arguing against mask wearing and social distancing has long since past,” the department wrote on its social media on Friday, linking to an article from peer-review medical journal The Lancet.

The study, based on a survey of more than 370,000 Americans, found that regions with a higher percentage of mask usage had better control of the spread of the coronavirus.

The Park County Health Department pointed to a particular passage from the article showing that mask mandates have apparently had little impact on the actual use of face masks and that an increasing number of people are choosing to use face coverings on their own.

“The widespread reported use of face masks combined with physical distancing increases the odds of SARS-CoV-2 transmission control,” the article said. “Self-reported mask-wearing increased separately from government mask mandates, suggesting that supplemental public health interventions are needed to maximize adoption and help to curb the ongoing pandemic.”

Park County has seen 263 positive coronavirus cases in the last two weeks. The county currently has 80 active cases as of Friday, according to the Wyoming coronavirus dashboard.

Active cases and hospitalizations across the state have generally trended downward over the last two months since Gov. Mark Gordon implemented a statewide mask mandate, which will be in effect until at least Feb. 14.

Earlier in the week, Natrona County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell credited the decrease in hospitalizations in his county to the use of face masks and social distancing.

“We’re maintaining low levels in the hospital, at around 11 to 15 patients at any one time,” Dowell said. “[This] has incredibly improved due to the community masking up and doing their job. For that, I applaud you completely.”

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21 More Coronavirus Deaths in Wyoming Reported on Friday

in Coronavirus/News
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Twenty-one added coronavirus-related deaths among Wyoming residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have been confirmed, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

·         An older adult Big Horn County woman died earlier this month. She was a resident of a local long-term care facility and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Big Horn County woman died earlier this month. She was hospitalized in another state; it’s unclear whether she had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Big Horn County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized in another state and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         Another adult Big Horn County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized in another state and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Converse County man died within the last week. He was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Crook County man died in December. He was hospitalized in another state and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Fremont County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An adult Fremont County man died in December. He was hospitalized in another state; it’s unclear whether he had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Hot Springs County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized in another state and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Laramie County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Laramie County woman died earlier this month. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An adult Laramie County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized; it’s unclear whether he had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Laramie County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized, was a resident of a local long-term care facility and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Laramie County woman died within the last week. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An adult Natrona County woman died in December. She had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Park County woman died in December. She was hospitalized both within and outside of Wyoming; it’s unclear whether she had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An adult Sweetwater County woman died within the last week. She was hospitalized in another state; it’s unclear whether she had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Sweetwater County man died earlier this month. He was hospitalized in another state; it’s unclear whether he had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An adult Uinta County man died within the last week. He had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Uinta County woman died earlier this month. She was hospitalized in another state, was a resident of a local long-term care facility and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

·         An older adult Washakie County woman died earlier this month. She was hospitalized in another state; it’s unclear whether she had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.

Deaths among Wyoming residents are added to the state’s total based on official death certificate information and location of permanent residence. If death certificates do not describe COVID-19 as either causing or contributing to a death, those deaths are not included in the WDH count.

For Wyoming data on confirmed coronavirus-related deaths, visit https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-map-and-statistics/ and click on the box that says “Click here for COVID-19 Related Death Information.”

Among Wyoming residents, there have now been 571 coronavirus-related deaths, 43,151 lab-confirmed cases and 7,432 probable cases reported since the pandemic began.

For more information about COVID-19, visit: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/. 

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Wyoming’s “Longmire Days” Rescheduled to September 2 – 5, 2021

in Longmire Days
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The Longmire Foundation on Friday announced it is postponing the annual Longmire Days celebration from July to September.

Longmire Days is an annual event held in Buffalo, Wyoming, every summer which celebrates the series of books featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire written by Wyoming author Craig Johnson.

The organization said that the safety concerns of event attendees, the community, and the actors who donate their time was the reason for the postponement.

It’s progress, however, as last year’s in-person celebration was canceled in favor of a virtual event.

“We feel this change will give the event the time that may be necessary for large-scale, in-person get togethers to be possible,” the organization said.  “We also feel event attendees may require the extra time to change travel plans and feel safe and secure traveling to Durant (aka Buffalo), Wyoming. We want to see everyone, and we want everyone to be safe.”

The organization said the scheduled dates (September 2 – 5) are tentative and it “will make a final decision about holding the event in early August.

“We are planning for the best-case scenario while preparing for the worst-case one — cancellation due to public health concerns.  We appreciate the patience of the Longmire enthusiasts during this process. The safety of our community, the fans, and the actors are, as always, foremost in our minds,” the organization said.

“Please stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distancing, get the vaccine, and let’s all hope we get through this before the event so we can all come together again and celebrate as a Longmire-loving community,” it said.

The Sheriff Walt Longmire books served as the inspiration for the television series “Longmire,” which is currently streaming on Netflix.

There were six seasons and 63 episodes produced over the course of the series, all starring Australian actor Robert Taylor as the fictional Wyoming sheriff.

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Josh Allen Predictions That Did Not Age Well

in Josh Allen
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As former University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen heads to the AFC Championship game with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, it’s fun to look back at all the so-called football experts who predicted doom for the Buffalo Bills when the organization drafted him in 2018.

A video posted on social news aggregator Reddit on Thursday captured some of those remarks — none of which are flattering to the 6-foot, 5-inch quarterback who was the seventh overall draft pick in 2018.

Although some predicted he would be a bust (IE: Josh Rosen), the quarterback instead steadily grew better and better and better.

This past season, Allen’s third, he is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league and in the MVP conversation.

What did the talking heads say about him in 2018?

“Josh Allen is awful, beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Outkick’s Clay Travis said. “The dude has major issues with throwing the football.”

“Carson Wentz is Josh Allen except way better,” Colin Cowherd said. Ironically, Wentz was benched this year while Allen improved his passing accuracy to fourth-best in the NFL.

“Disaster is coming for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills,” said an unidentified commentator. “I think Josh Allen is terrible. They would have been better off with Tyrod Taylor.” (Taylor, by the way, holds a clipboard).

Another broadcaster predicted Allen was “at best” a sixth-round draft pick while a goofy-looking Cleveland Browns sportscaster said Allen would be “a total bust”.

Meanwhile, Allen — only in his third year — holds franchise records in Buffalo for passing touchdowns in a season (37), total touchdowns (45), completion percentage (69.2), quarterback rating (107.2), and ESPN’s QBR statistic (81.7).

After being drafted, Allen humbly thanked the Bills organization and said his goal was to “make them look like the smartest people out there.”

Mission accomplished, Josh.

If you are a Josh Allen fan, this video is definitely worth watching.

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Fans to Again Be Allowed at UW Athletics Events

in News/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After nearly two months, the University of Wyoming is allowing fans back at its athletics events.

Beginning Thursday, a maximum of 2,000 fans will be allowed to attend events held at the Arena-Auditorium and a maximum of 170 fans will be allowed in the UniWyo Federal Credit Union Sports Complex.

The newest attendance guidelines for University of Wyoming Athletics events were approved by the Wyoming Department of Health as they follow the department’s public health orders governing COVID-19 and gathering sizes.

These guidelines apply to all UW Athletics events for all sports.  Attendance guidelines may change based on future coronavirus-related public health orders issued by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Single-game tickets for the remaining games will go on sale to season-ticket holders at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, and will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27. 
 
University of Wyoming students will not be allowed to attend any UW Athletics events prior to Feb. 1, per UW coronavirus guidelines that place students in a limited contact period as they return to campus for the spring semester. 

This will be the first time fans have attended a UW athletics event since early December, when Gov. Mark Gordon issued stricter health orders due to a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

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Wyoming’s COVID Hospitalizations Drop to Fewer Than 85

in Coronavirus/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s coronavirus-related hospitalizations have continued to decline since hitting a peak of more than 230 in late November, with only 84 people hospitalized as of Thursday.

According to the Wyoming hospital tracker, this was a slight increase over the 81 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday, but still is a decline from the beginning of the week, when around 88 patients were hospitalized due to the virus.

Natrona County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell credited the decrease in hospitalizations to the use of face masks and social distancing.

“We’re maintaining low levels in the hospital, at around 11 to 15 patients at any one time,” Dowell said. “[This] has incredibly improved due to the community masking up and doing their job. For that, I applaud you completely.”

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center had the most patients, with 20 as of Thursday. There were 11 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit, as well.

The Wyoming Medical Center in Casper had 17 coronavirus patients and eight patients in its ICU.

St. Johns Medical Center in Jackson had nine coronavirus patients, with Cody Regional Hospital and Campbell County Memorial Hospital trailing just behind, with seven coronavirus patients in each.

Of the 244 available ventilators in the state, only nine were being used, five of which were at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

However, just because someone is on a ventilator or in the intensive care unit doesn’t mean they’re a coronavirus patient.

The decline in coronavirus hospitalizations prompted Gov. Mark Gordon on Thursday to relax the state’s restrictions on the size of public gatherings. However, he extended the requirement for people to wear face masks in public settings until at least Feb. 14.

As of Wednesday, 77,729 coronavirus tests had been conducted at hospitals across the state, with a 11.02% cumulative positive rate.

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Bouchard Calls Cheney’s Impeachment Vote a “Stab in the Back”

in Liz Cheney/News/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, this week described the vote of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney to impeach former President Donald Trump as a “stab in the back.”

Bouchard’s comments came during an appearance on Fox with Laura Ingraham, his first televised appearance since announcing his campaign against Cheney in 2022 for her House seat, which she has held since 2017.

When Ingraham asked Bouchard why it was a problem for Cheney to vote her conscience to impeach Trump, Bouchard said it wasn’t her job to vote on her feelings.

“She’s there to vote for the people of Wyoming,” he said. “We’ve had a full-on attack on conservatives, it’s gone on and on and on. We had a man that was president that was fighting for us, and what he got was an ice pick in the back by 10 people.”

Cheney on Jan. 13 was one of 10 House Republicans to vote in favor of impeachment following an assault on the U.S. Capitol she believed Trump helped to incite.

Bouchard said he expected this kind of behavior from the “swamp” in Washington, D.C., but not from a representative from Wyoming.

“That’s why I’m running, I think we have to make a good fight against what’s going on,” he said. “If we have someone from Wyoming just going to Washington to make deals, what good is that going to do?”

Ingraham said she wished Cheney and other legislators like U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah were as tough on congressional Democrats as they were on Trump.

Conservative columnist Henry Olsen on Thursday said the Democratic Party is looking forward to intra-party battles like this.

“They know that the more Republicans fight each other, the likelier they won’t reunite to fight them,” Olsen said. “Democrats are surely drooling over the rumored prospect of Trump creating his own Patriot Party that would position itself to the GOP’s right on rhetoric and policy.

“In our first-past-the-post election system, in which a candidate does not need a majority of the vote to win, Democrats know that a split center-right can only help them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bouchard announced on his social media accounts Friday that he had raised more than $50,000 in donations within the first two days of announcing his congressional campaign.

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Courts: Inmate Convicted of Kidnap/Sexual Assault Loses Bid For Less-Secure Detention

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of kidnap and sexual assault more than 25 years ago has lost in his attempt to be held in a lower-security facility.

The Wyoming Supreme Court on Friday rejected the appeal of Chester Loyde Bird, who was trying to win eligibility to be held at a facility such as the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton or Honor Conservation Camp in Newcastle.

Bird in 1994 was arrested on allegations he kidnapped a woman outside of a Campbell County grocery store at knife-point, forced her into her car and raped her. He was on parole for a previous crime at the time.

Bird pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault. He was determined to be a habitual criminal and was sentenced to serve two life terms in prison.

In January 2020, Bird, who is held at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, was the subject of an annual “inmate reclassification” and he said his score indicated he should be eligible for “minimum custody.”

However, the Department of Corrections classified him as “medium custody,” meaning he would not be eligible to be held in facilities such as the Honor Farm or Conservation Camp.

Bird, in a lawsuit filed in state district court, said the policies and procedures the DOC used to change his classification are actually administrative rules and should have been filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, but were not. 

As a result, Bird argued, the policies are in violation of the state’s Administrative Procedure Act and null and void.

However, the state district court dismissed Bird’s argument, saying the only type of rules that have to be filed with the Secretary of State’s office are rules for the internal management of institutions under the DOC.

Justices unanimously agreed with the lower court that the policies governing inmate classification do not have to be filed with the Secretary of State’s office, so Bird’s argument is moot.

“Mr. Bird has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” said the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray.

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Wyoming Worst In The Nation For Drunk Driving in 2020

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According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Census Bureau, and the FBI, and compiled by The Zebra insurance company, Wyoming was the worst state in the nation for drunk driving in 2020.

Although last year was the safest on record nationwide since reporting became standard in 1982, Wyoming ranked the worst overall for drunk driving problems and had more fatalities per 100,000 people than any other state.

“Critics blast the state’s lenient drunk driving laws and absence of sobriety checkpoints,” the study reads. “Alcohol-impaired driving incidents killed 36 people in Wyoming in 2019 — that number is six times greater than the total fatalities recorded in the District of Columbia, despite Wyoming’s smaller population and larger size.”

Wyoming recorded 6.2 fatalities per 100,000 people and 550 DUI arrests in 2020.

Neighboring states Montana and Idaho also ranked in the top five.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving cite Montana as one of the most dangerously tolerant states for drunk driving offenders, and the state’s 66 fatalities last year were enough to give it the second-highest fatality rate in the entire country,” the report reads.

Idaho passed new laws in 2020 that required first-time drunk driving offenders to drive with ignition interlocks but that wasn’t enough to keep the state out of the top five.

Idaho jumped to a fourth-place ranking, thanks in part to it’s high DUI arrest rate of 442 per 100,000 people.

“The most dangerous territory in the U.S. for drunk driving incidents is a vast stretch of land from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountains, encompassing North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho,” the study said.

“We found that each of these states appears repeatedly atop annual lists totaling per capita DUI arrests and fatalities, and faces repeated criticism from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others on lenient drunk driving laws that encourage the behavior to continue,” it continued.

As for the safest states in the country, the District of Columbia topped that list followed by New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Utah.

Wyoming did not rank in the top five for alcohol consumption. Tops in that category went to New Hampshire which was rated the  “drunkest state in the nation” consuming alcohol at a rate 34% higher than the runner-up.

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Park County Officials Warn Citizens That Stealing Road Signs Could Have Serious Repercussions

in Crime/News
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Park County officials are warning citizens that theft of road signs could result in charges far more serious than theft.

When announcing the theft of another road sign in the area, the sheriff’s office said if accidents occur because of a stolen sign, the individual responsible could be subject to “very serious” legal consequences.

“If someone were injured or killed due to the hazard of the signs being removed the perpetrators could potentially face other charges,” Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric said.

Those charges, he said, include:  manslaughter, negligent homicide, and reckless endangering.

“It may seem like a harmless prank, but the consequences of these actions can be far reaching,” Sheriff Scott Steward said, “[But] traffic signs are there for a reason, to help protect the drivers on the road.”

The department listed three legal cases where death and serious injuries resulted from areas where road signs were stolen, including a case in Florida where three teenagers died when a semi-truck hit a vehicle.

In that case, the people who stole the sign were charged with manslaughter.

“While Wyoming Law does differ from other states’ laws the possibility of a more severe charge than theft is still conceivable,” Skoric said.

Steward said the theft of road signs may seem like a “harmless prank but the consequences of these actions can be far reaching.”

The Powell Tribune reported that 22 traffic cones and two signs disappeared last December and the cost of replacing signs is more than $500 each and that doesn’t include the cost of having workers reinstall them.

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