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Wyoming Records 38 More COVID Deaths For Late November

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Thirty-eight coronavirus-related deaths among Wyoming residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were added to the state’s posted total between Nov. 21-25, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The following information is about those deaths previously included on the WDH website but not described in a formal announcement:

  • An older adult Big Horn County man died early last month. He 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 early last 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 Campbell County man died in October. 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 Campbell County woman died last 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 Campbell County woman died last month. She 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 Campbell County woman died early last month. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An older adult Campbell County woman died last month. She was hospitalized and was a resident of a local long-term care facility; 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 Carbon County man died early last 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 Converse County woman died last month. She 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 woman died last 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 Fremont County woman died last month. She was hospitalized; 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 Fremont County woman died last month. She 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 adult Fremont County man died last 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 Fremont County man died early last 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 adult Fremont County woman died in late October. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An older adult Goshen County woman died early last 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 Goshen County woman died last month. She was hospitalized; 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 Goshen County man died last month. He 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 last month. He was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An adult Laramie County woman died last month. She was hospitalized; 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 Laramie County woman died last 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 adult Laramie County man died last 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 Count woman died last 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 Natrona County man died last month. He was a resident of a local long-term care facility.
  • An older adult Natrona County man died in late October. He 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 Natrona County woman died last 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 Natrona County woman died last month. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An older adult Natrona County man died last month. He 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 Natrona County woman died early last month. She was a resident of a local long-term care facility; 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 Natrona County woman died last month. She was hospitalized both in 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 older adult Natrona County woman died early last month. She 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 Natrona County man died early last 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 Natrona County woman died last 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 Park County woman died early last month. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An older adult Park County woman died early last month. She was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An older adult Platte County man died last month. He was hospitalized and did not have known health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
  • An older adult Washakie County man died last month. He was a resident of a local long-term care facility; 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 Weston County man died early last month. He was hospitalized and 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.

If death certificates do not describe the coronavirus as either causing or contributing to a person’s death, those deaths are not included in Wyoming’s count.

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Albany County Extends Mask Mandate Until Jan. 4

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Albany County Public Health Officer is extending its mask mandate until Jan. 4, the office announced Tuesday morning.

The order was first enacted on Nov. 6 and has been extended at the request of county health officer Dr. Jean Allais. Wyoming Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist approved the extension.

This is the first example of a mask order being extended into the new year in any Wyoming counties.

There will be slight amendments to the order, such as requiring business employees to wear masks while working near each other, not just while working in public spaces.

The mask order will also now apply to children 12 and older.

The mandate will also be waived in situations where law enforcement officers request mask removal to aid in the identification of people.

“Continued high rates of transmission support a continued mask mandate in Albany County,” Allais said.

Albany County is seeing more than 30% of infection rates due to community spread. The University of Wyoming sent students home earlier than expected due to spikes in the county.

Mask orders have been implemented in numerous counties across Wyoming, although Gov. Mark Gordon has been hesitant to implement a statewide one. Gordon recently tested positive for the coronavirus and is recovering.

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Wyoming School Districts Struggle To Get Substitute Teachers

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

Because of the pandemic, school districts across Wyoming are having problems finding enough substitute teachers to keep classes going when regular teachers are ill, on leave, or quarantined.

“Many of our substitute teachers are also retired teachers,” explained Peg Monteith, superintendent for Park County School District No. 6 in Cody, “and we had a hunch that they weren’t going to want to come back into a pandemic environment. 

“I think the other piece of that was, we were going to have … teachers out potentially two weeks at a time should they have to quarantine,” she said.

The problem reaches beyond Park County, according to Grady Hutcherson, president of the Wyoming Education Association.

Hutcherson said most of Wyoming’s school districts are seeing shortages in available substitute teachers.

“Education employees are being forced to make impossible decisions,” he said. “They are being forced to put their health and safety and potentially that of their family on the line in the interest of serving students and society and continuing in their careers.“

Monteith said the problem caused the school administration – and the district’s board — to consider some changes.

“So we began looking at all of the situations that were making it difficult to fill our absenteeism, and what could we do to incentivize our sub pick-up jobs,” she said.

Monteith said the district was prompted to increase the pay for substitute teachers after its neighboring school district, Park County No. 1 in Powell, found success by doing just that. 

Powell Superintendent Jay Curtis said officials knew they had to make some changes as soon as the school year began.

“Last year we had something like, I think 20 total sub jobs that hadn’t been filled over the course of a month and a half — whereas this year that number was quadrupled,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, we were facing situations where we would have six, eight, 10, 13 sub jobs that would not be filled. So, when that occurs … some of my principals had to sub, we would rearrange paraprofessionals to go in to sub for a classroom.”

But Monteith said Cody schools are doing more than just increasing pay to entice substitute teachers — the district put a focus group together to determine the barriers to effective substitute teaching and then developed plans to remove those barriers.

“As they were coming into buildings, orientation to the buildings, having a go-to person, having a mentor teacher to go to so they don’t come in feeling like, ‘I don’t even know where the bathroom is, and I need to understand how to manage this classroom,’ things like that,” she said.

Both superintendents said that the changes they’ve made have had the desired effect.

“Right now, I feel like we are in a much better place,” Monteith said. “We may have had a fill rate of 40% to 50% in September, into early October. We’re closer to an 80% to 90% percent now, sometimes 100%.”

“As soon as it was out that we had raised our pay, we had a number of people – I can’t give you exact numbers, but it was more than 10 – came in and got their sub applications,” Curtis said. “And within a few weeks we were in a position where we weren’t having sub jobs go unfilled.”

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801 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 8,612 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Despite an increase in new confirmed coronavirus cases of 801 in Wyoming on Monday, the number of the state’s active COVID-19 cases declined.

The Wyoming Department of Health said it had received new reports of 1,456 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable coronavirus cases, exceeding both the 801 new confirmed cases and 15 new probable cases.

The numbers left the state with 8,612 active cases, a decline of 640 from Sunday. The drop marked the fourth time in five days the number of active cases has declined.

Natrona County had 1892 confirmed cases; Laramie County had 1,322; Campbell had 869; Albany had 734; Fremont had 638; Sheridan had 587; Sweetwater had 473; Goshen had 349; Uinta had 272; Washakie had 203; Teton had 189; Lincoln had 175; Park had 173; Johnson had 138; Carbon had 115; Platte had 93; Sublette had 82; Hot Springs had 69; Converse had 63; Big Horn had 59; Weston had 56; Crook had 35, and Niobrara had 26.

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.

The Health Department said new confirmed cases were reported in 21 of the state’s counties. Natrona County saw the highest number of new cases at 192. Laramie County had 153.

The increase in confirmed cases brought the total of such cases seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March to 29,053.

The increase of 15 brought the number of probable cases seen since the pandemic began to 4,252. A probable case is one where the patient has symptoms of coronavirus and has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case, but has not been tested for the illness.

With the new reports of recoveries on Monday, the total number of people to recover from confirmed or probable coronavirus cases since March stood at 24,478.

Editor’s Note: This is a map of the active coronavirus cases in each county across Wyoming. The number of active cases is determined by subtracting the total number of recoveries seen since the illness first reached Wyoming in mid-March from the total number of confirmed and probable cases diagnosed during the same time period and taking into account deaths related to the disease.

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Hospitalized Wyoming COVID Patients Ties Record

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a decline in the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming over the last week, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals around the state tied a record on Sunday.

The Wyoming Department of Health’s report said 235 coronavirus patients were in various hospitals on Sunday, the same number as were in hospitals on Nov. 21.

The number of active coronavirus cases around the state has dropped from a peak of 11,861 seen on Tuesday, Nov. 24, to 9,252 on Sunday, a decline of 2,609.

However, during the same period, the number of people being treated in hospitals for the illness grew by seven, from 228 to 235.

The highest number of coronavirus patients was found at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, 64, while 63 were being treated at Casper’s Wyoming Medical Center.

A major concern throughout the pandemic has been the strain the illness might put on hospitals, particularly intensive care unit rooms.

As of Sunday, the Cheyenne hospital had three open ICU rooms and Casper’s had two. Several smaller hospitals, including SageWest Health Care in Lander and Community Hospital Torrington, had no ICU rooms left as of Sunday.

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514 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 9,252 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of confirmed cases in Wyoming increased by 514 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases reported since the virus first hit here in mid-March to 28,252.

The number of active cases also rose. An increase of 336 cases brought the number of Wyoming residents currently ill with the virus to 9,252.

As of Sunday, Natrona County had the highest number of active cases with 1,966; Laramie County had 1,408; Campbell County had 985; Albany County had 873; Fremont County had 660; Sheridan County had 579; Sweetwater County had 501; Goshen County had 348; Uinta County had 273; Washakie County had 207; Park County had 205; Lincoln County had 192; Teton County had 189; Johnson County had 137; Carbon County had 129; Platte County had 112; Sublette County had 96; Converse County had 85; Hot Springs County had 72; Niobrara County had 62; Big Horn and Weston counties both had 59; and Crook County had 55.

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.

Probable cases increased slightly (46), while recoveries were also up by 224.

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13 Deaths, 702 New Coronavirus Cases; 10,433 Active

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The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming fell by more than 1,400 on Wednesday as the Wyoming Department of Health reported it had received new reports of more than 2,200 recoveries.

However, the department also announced Wednesday that the deaths of 13 more Wyoming residents were linked to the illness.

According to department figures, three of the deaths occurred among Fremont County residents, while Laramie and Campbell counties each saw two residents die. One victim also came from each of Converse, Crook, Goshen, Natrona, Platte and Washakie counties.

Further details about the deaths will not be released until Monday.

The announcement of the deaths came as the department said it had received reports of recoveries among 2,217 people with either confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus.

The state also reported 702 new laboratory-confirmed cases and 100 new probable cases. Combined, the numbers left the state with 10,433 active cases, a decline of 1,428 from Tuesday.

Natrona County had 2,342 active cases; Laramie County had 1,474; Albany had 1,219; Campbell had 1,129; Fremont had 705; Sheridan had 613; Sweetwater had 434; Goshen had 370; Uinta had 360; Park had 246; Lincoln had 210; Washakie had 192; Teton had 158; Johnson had 150; Carbon had 140; Platte had 116; Sublette had 114; Converse had 108; Weston had 83; Big Horn and Hot Springs had 77; Crook had 63 and Niobrara had 53.

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.

New cases were reported in 22 counties, with Laramie County reporting the highest number at 168. Natrona County reported 114.

The increase in confirmed cases brought the total seen since the disease was first diagnosed in Wyoming in mid-March to 26,677.

The number of probable cases, meanwhile, increased by 100 to total 4,084.

The 2,217 new recoveries brought the number of people to recover since the pandemic began to 20,113.

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon Tests Positive For Covid-19

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Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon has tested positive for the coronavirus his office announced on Wednesday.

“Governor Mark Gordon received results today of a COVID-19 test that showed he is positive for the virus,” the statement read. “He only has minor symptoms at this time and plans to continue working on behalf of Wyoming remotely.”

Only moments after the statement was released, a video was posted on Gordon’s Facebook page of the Governor and First Lady wishing citizens a Happy Thanksgiving.  The positive coronavirus test was not mentioned.

“Jennie and I want to wish you all a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving. In these challenging times, we are thankful for our family, friends, healthcare workers, service members and first responders,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s office was closed on Tuesday to be “thoroughly cleaned” after an employee of the governor’s office tested positive.

Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman on Tuesday told Cowboy State Daily that he didn’t know the exact number of people who were exposed to the virus.

“Governor’s office staff are telecommuting on a rotating basis, so there are only a handful of people in the office every day and I don’t know who of those may have been in close contact with this individual,” he said in an email. “Those who are in the office are wearing face coverings at all time when they are not in their private offices.”

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Cheney Praises Trump’s White House For COVID Vaccine Innovation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, speaking during an award acceptance speech this week, praised President Donald Trump and his administration for their help with the development of two coronavirus vaccines.

Cheney received the American Life Sciences Innovation Council’s 2020 Champion of Health Care Innovation award from the Wyoming Hospital Association, the Casper Chamber of Commerce, the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and the Wyoming Medical Society.

“One of the stories that has not [been as prominent[ is the really incredible process that has gone on through Operation Warp Speed put in place by President Trump and the task force at the White House,” she said during her comments on a Zoom call this week. “I think the untold story that’s not getting enough credit is the distribution system that’s been set up.”

Cheney credited the Trump administration’s establishment of a partnership between the military and the American private sector. She also hailed the administration’s decision to leave the distribution of a vaccine and other health mandates up to the states, instead of implementing nationwide health orders.

She added a jab at the transition process between the Trump administration and incoming President-Elect Joe Biden’s team, saying she was “grateful” the latter didn’t yet have access to the vaccine distribution system yet, as she believed the Biden administration would seize the vaccines and “nationalize” them.

She also commented on Gov. Mark Gordon’s recent order to send assistance to hospitals across the state, especially in Cheyenne and Gillette.

“The vaccines are certainly the light at the end of the tunnel, and those are coming very quickly, but we’re going to have to get people through the next several months here and make sure that people’s businesses can continue to thrive,” Cheney concluded.

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Park County GOP Says Mask Order is Unconstitutional; Wants it Rescinded

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Members of Park County’s Republican Party are studying a resolution calling for the county’s health officer to rescind the mandatory face mask order that took effect last week.

The resolution to be voted on by the county’s central committee during a Dec. 3 meeting alleges the order is unconstitutional because it was put into place without the input of elected officials.

“Obviously, this was an end run around our elected officials at the sate level, our county commissioners and our mayors and city/town council,” the proposed resolution said. “Furthermore, input from the public was never solicited!”

A copy of the proposed resolution has been delivered to Park County commissioners, but Martin Kimmet, chairman of the Park County Republican Party, said it would remain an unofficial document until it could be reviewed and adopted by the party’s central committee.

The document was signed by Kimmet and other members of the party’s executive committee.

Dr. Aaron Billin, Park County’s public health officer, was one of more than a dozen county health officers to seek state approval for public health orders mandating the use of face masks in public settings.

In a posting to the Park County Health Department’s Facebook page, Billin cited studies concluding that the use of face masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing are powerful tools in preventing the spread of the coronavirus as the reasoning behind his order.

However, Billin sought approval for his health order from Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, without consulting elected officials, the proposed resolution said.

The resolution said the party is challenging Billin’s authority to issue the order and asks that he rescind it.

“Should he not, we urge our elected Park County Commissioners to nullify this unconstitutional order, in haste, at their earliest opportunity,” the document said.

Commissioners in several counties, including Uinta, Carbon and Washakie, have said mask mandates requested by their county health officials were submitted for state approval before the commissioners were alerted to the orders.

State law does not appear to require county commissioners to approve public health orders and it specifies that county health officers are under the “direction and supervision” of the state Department of Health.

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