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Three More Deaths Bring Wyoming COVID Fatalities To 49

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Three more Wyoming residents have died as a result of coronavirus, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Thursday.

The department, in a news release, said the deaths of the three older men raised the number of coronavirus-related fatalities seen in the state since the disease was first diagnosed here in mid-March to 49.

One of the victims was an older Goshen County man who died earlier this month at an out-of-state hospital after contracting the virus in Wyoming. The department said it was unclear whether the man had underlying health conditions that might make him more susceptible to complications from the illness.

Another older man, this one from Natrona County, died last week while being hospitalized.

The man did have underlying health conditions, the department said.

The third victim, an older Park County man who had underlying health conditions, died within the last week, the department said. It added the man had not been hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus prior to his death.

Alaska is the only state in the nation with fewer coronavirus-related deaths than Wyoming at 44. Wyoming is one of only three states, along with Alaska and Vermont, with fewer than 100 deaths.

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Record 104 New Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Reported in Wyoming Wednesday

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

More than 100 new confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in the state Wednesday as almost three-quarters of the state’s counties reported new cases.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said 17 counties reported 104 new confirmed cases Wednesday, the largest single-day increase in cases seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March.

Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said the new cases are coming from a variety of sources.

“Recent cases have involved workplaces, social gatherings, the university, community colleges and schools,” she said in an email. 

Some counties reported double-digit increases in new cases. Natrona County reported 23 new cases; Albany County reported 15; Sheridan reported 13 and Converse reported 12.

The increase in confirmed cases, combined with 24 new probable cases, pushed the number of active coronavirus cases in the state back over 500.

Department figures showed the number of active cases in the state grew by 82 on Wednesday to total 549.

Albany County had 109 active cases; Natrona had 86; Laramie had 50; Sheridan had 49; Fremont had 38; Converse had 33; Teton had 30; Park had 25; Campbell had 19; Goshen had 18; Crook had 17; Lincoln, Sublette and Uinta had 14; Carbon and Platte had nine; Weston had four; Sweetwater and Washakie had three; Hot Springs and Johnson had two, and Big Horn had one.

The active cases were seen among 451 people with confirmed cases and 98 with probable cases.

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 increase in confirmed cases Wednesday brings the total number of confirmed cases diagnosed since mid-March to 3,866.

The number of probable cases, those where patients have coronavirus symptoms and have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case but have not been tested for the illness, went up by 24 Wednesday to total 700 since the pandemic began.

Recoveries also increased Wednesday, growing by 46 to push the number of people to recover from the illness to 3,971, including 3,369 people with confirmed cases and 602 with probable cases.

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UW Installs New COVID Indicators To Avoid Second Lockdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has developed a set of benchmarks to be monitored daily to guide its decisions regarding the coronavirus.

UW President Ed Seidel will present the new coronavirus indicators to the Board of Trustees on Thursday. They will include the total on-campus student cases of coronavirus, the university’s capacity for isolation/quarantine and the total number of active cases.

Action taken based on the status of those indicators could include another pause of in-person classes, quarantining a single residence hall or floor of a hall, shifting specific classes or events to an online venue for a period of time or reducing density of a designated area.

“I am tremendously proud of how our faculty, staff and students have navigated our path to returning to the vibrant on-campus research and learning environment we value. We are committed to creating the safest possible experience for our university community,” Seidel said in a news release. “Our updated set of indicators, thresholds and tactics was developed based upon our experience with the virus at UW; the latest scientific data and guidance from universities across the country; and with the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students as our top priority.

“It will allow us to move forward and nimbly address new developments on a daily basis,” he continued.

The new set of indicators update the university’s contingency plan created by a committee during the summer to help the university decide how to address a potential spike of infections on campus.

As the university has emerged from a short-term pause in operations spurred by an increase in cases, Seidel asked the committee that developed the original plan to revisit the contingency framework using information that was gained through the pause and the continued migration back to campus.

The university also has boosted staffing in key areas, allowing consideration of more possible actions in response to specific situations, Seidel said.

“As we track these indicators, we’ll have a wide-ranging set of actions and interventions that can be taken, based on a combination of the data and the context of the evolving situation,” he said. “We expect this approach will provide a set of actions that, along with the commitment of everyone to follow our policies on distancing, face protection and gatherings, will allow for us to have an on-campus experience in the safest manner possible.”

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Gordon Extends Wyoming Health Orders For Fifth Time

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Public health orders limiting the size of outdoor and indoor gatherings will remain in place for at least two more weeks, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Tuesday.

However, the rules have been relaxed in some areas to allow indoor group close-contact activities such as sporting events.

Gordon had cited a desire to see the impacts of the Labor Day holiday and the reopening of K-12 schools for in-person learning before easing the current health orders, something he echoed in his news conference last week.

“Wyoming has really held its own; Schools are open and sports are being played on Fridays and Saturdays,” Gordon said in the release. “We want to be careful to avoid going backwards and losing the high ground we hold. Steady progress beats the alternative, which would be devastating to our businesses, our schools and our citizens.”

Restrictions on gatherings have been slowly eased over time. Health officials have continuously evaluated the easing of those restrictions and the resulting impact.

There were minimal issues identified as a result of outdoor contact sports resuming under the rules in August, Gordon said. Health officials will continue to take specific, measured steps in the easing of orders, as conditions warrant.

Health orders continue to allow outdoor gatherings of no more than 50% of a venue’s capacity, up to 1,000 people, as long as social distancing and increased sanitization measures are in place.

Indoor gatherings in a confined space remain limited to 50 persons without restrictions and 250 persons if social distancing and sanitization measures are incorporated.

The governor and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist noted that the procedures implemented by school districts across the state have been largely successful in limiting the spread of the virus.

Protocols including social distancing and mask usage by staff and students have been effective in preventing widespread outbreaks.

To date, no school buildings in Wyoming have been required to close.

Over the past 14 days, Wyoming has averaged approximately 31 new laboratory-confirmed cases per day, and the percent of COVID-19 tests with a positive result is 2.1.

As of September 15, Wyoming has recorded 3,762 lab-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, 676 probable cases and 46 deaths. Nearly 138,000 tests have been completed by the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory and commercial reference laboratories.

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46 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 467 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of active coronavirus cases increased slightly on Tuesday, growing by four to total 467.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said 46 new laboratory-confirmed and probable coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday, while the reported recoveries among patients increased by 42.

Albany County had 96 active cases; Natrona had 61; Laramie had 50; Fremont had 48; Sheridan had 40; Teton had 33; Converse had 22; Campbell, Goshen and Park had 17; Crook had 13; Sublette had 12; Lincoln had 11; Carbon and Platte had five; Uinta and Weston had four; Big Horn, Sweetwater and Washakie had three; Johnson had two, and Hot Springs had one.

Niobrara remained the only county without an active case.

Department of Health figures showed that 390 active cases were found among those with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus and 77 were among those with active cases.

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 total number of laboratory-confirmed cases seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in March grew by 39 on Tuesday to total 3,762. New cases were reported in 13 counties: Albany, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Laramie, Lincoln, Natrona, Park, Platte, Sheridan, Sublette and Teton. Albany County saw the most new cases at 10.

The number of probable cases, where patients have coronavirus symptoms and have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, went up by seven Tuesday to total 676 since the pandemic began.

The total number of people infected with either lab-confirmed or probable cases since mid-March stood at 4,438 and the Health Department said 3,925 of those people had recovered as of Tuesday, an increase of 42 from Monday.

The recoveries are divided among 3,326 lab-confirmed cases and 599 probable cases.

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Wyoming Has Fifth Fewest Coronavirus Restrictions In Country

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has moved down one spot in an updated ranking of the states with the fewest coronavirus restrictions.

Wyoming is now at fifth place, down from being tied fourth with Idaho in August, according to personal finance website WalletHub. South Dakota again ranked first, with the fewest restrictions in the nation.

Hawaii is now the state with the most coronavirus restrictions in the United States, just beating out the state previously ranked as having the most restrictions, California.

Wyoming is ranked so high in the list due to it having the least virus restrictions when it came to workplace temperature screenings, travel restrictions, strictness of a shelter-in-place order (there has been none issued in Wyoming), the speed with which it allowed for the reopening non-essential businesses and for the lack of working from home requirements/recommendations.

Wyoming was second when it came to how fast restaurants and bars reopened. The state was sixth when it came to requiring the use of face masks in public, 15th for large gathering restrictions and 18th for guidance on customer health checks at restaurants.

Since May, Wyoming has regularly placed in the top 10 for states with the fewest restrictions, with August being the highest ranking so far.

WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 17 key metrics, ranging from whether restaurants have reopened to whether the state has required face masks in public and workplace temperature screenings.

However, it was noted that although Wyoming has some of the fewest restrictions, the state also has one of the lowest death counts.

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46 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 116 Recoveries

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

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.

The recovery of 116 people sick with the coronavirus has pushed the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming down significantly for the second time in less than one week.

Figures released from the Wyoming Department of Health on Monday showed that the number of active cases dropped by 73 on Monday — almost 14% — to total 463.

The decline follows a drop of 106 in active cases on Friday.

The department’s numbers indicated the total of active cases fell in 15 counties on Monday, with Carbon County showing a decline of 23 and Laramie County showing a fall of 20.

Albany County had 87 active cases; Natrona County had 68; Fremont County had 57; Laramie had 50; Sheridan had 43; Teton had 31; Converse had 22; Campbell had 18; Park had 17; Goshen had 15; Lincoln had 10; Crook had nine; Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta and Weston had five; Sublette had four; Big Horn, Platte and Washakie had three; Johnson had two, and Hot Springs had one.

The active cases were among 383 patients with laboratory-confirmed cases and 80 patients with probable cases.

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 decline came despite an increase in confirmed cases of 44 on Monday. The Health Department said 12 counties reported new lab-confirmed cases: Albany, Campbell, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Laramie, Natrona, Platte, Sheridan, Teton and Uinta. Albany County saw the biggest increase in cases at 16.

The increase brought to 3,723 the number of confirmed cases seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in March.

The number of probable cases seen since the pandemic began, those where the patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case but has not been tested, was set at 669 on Monday, an increase of two from Sunday.

Of the 4,392 people with either confirmed or probable cases, 3,883 have recovered, according to the Health Department, an increase of 116 from Sunday. Since Friday, when 171 recoveries were reported, the state has recorded 331 recoveries.

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UW Professors Receive Grant To Develop Fast & Accurate Coronavirus Test

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two University of Wyoming researchers and one of their colleagues recently received a grant to develop a coronavirus test system that is fast, accurate and portable.

The testing system developed by the trio will also test for antibodies to the virus in human samples, the university announced Monday.

UW Department of Chemical Engineering professors Patrick Johnson and Karen Wawrousek, along with Professor Gerard Wall in the microbiology department at the National University of Ireland-Galway, received a little more than $236,000 for a one-year grant from the Health Research Board of Ireland.

Johnson and Wall have been collaborating for the past several years, including when Wall received a Fulbright scholarship to work with the Johnson Lab at UW in the fall of 2015.

Johnson and Wawrousek will create a away to analyze or “assay” samples for signs of coronavirus that will be rapid and portable, using a handheld, battery-operated device. Samples will be analyzed in as little as 15 minutes, Johnson said, and the system will be highly sensitive and specific to the presence of coronavirus.

Wall will produce antibody fragments for use in the detection of the virus that are more robust than the antibodies currently used in detection test kits.

“Our test will have higher sensitivity than other rapid tests and will not require any sample preparation,” Johnson said in a news release. “The idea is to have an accurate, portable, on-site test with results within 15-20 minutes. This will allow rapid answers while the patient is still present, enabling immediate intervention and treatment.”

This type of assay will allow for testing in rural and remote areas, and on-site at airports, among other locations, Johnson added.

Samples would be collected via saliva, a nasal swab or blood. The samples then would be placed in glass vials and inserted into the hand-held instruments, called Raman spectrometers, for analysis.

For the analysis, the project team plans to use Raman spectrometers developed by entrepreneur Keith Carron, a UW professor emeritus of chemistry and CEO of Metrohm Raman in Laramie.

The project team will work with Noah Hull, Microbiology Laboratories manager at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory in Cheyenne, to test against known positive and negative samples to validate the assay.

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University of Wyoming To Resume In-Person Classes Tuesday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming will end its pause on in-person classes and resume its phased fall return plan Tuesday, university officials announced Monday.

This follows a pause of nearly two-weeks in efforts to return students to classroom that was prompted by an outbreak of coronavirus cases among the campus community. On Tuesday, the university will begin phase two of its return plan, with the start of face-to-face instruction of first-year seminars.

These classes were originally slated to begin in person on Sept. 7, along with some pharmacy and certain graduate courses. Students now allowed on campus include all of those allowed into university facilities during the first phase of the return plan, along with all first-year students living in residence halls, freshmen taking first-year seminars, all law students, students in the Literacy Research Center and Clinic and first-year pharmacy students.

Testing of employees and students on campus will continue as campus buildings gradually reopen in the near future.

During all steps toward full reopening this fall, everyone on the UW campus is required to wear face protection and practice 6-foot physical distancing, as outlined in the university’s COVID policy.

UW President Ed Seidel said in a news release the pause allowed the UW to more thoroughly review the test data it was receiving and take the action necessary to slow transmission of the virus.

“Now, we’re ready to resume the phased return plan, with additional measures in place to keep the campus as safe as possible,” he said. “For us to avoid another pause and proceed to the next phase Sept. 28, everyone — on campus or off — must adhere to those measures and avoid large off-campus gatherings where distancing and/or face protection are not employed.”

Seidel noted that while the traditional student-age population may not be as susceptible to complications from the coronavirus people of other ages, many of the members of the communities that support campus life include people at higher risk.

“It is UW’s responsibility to take into consideration all our community members in the requests of everyone to wear face protection, maintain distancing and follow safe practices at off-campus gatherings,” Seidel said. “For us to be successful, UW’s infrastructure has to be kept healthy, and it takes everyone to achieve this at the highest level possible.”

Since Friday, there have been 27 new cases of coronavirus reported among UW students and employees. All but four of them were detected in the university’s bridge testing program of asymptomatic individuals by Vault Health, which experienced a backlog of tests due to the Labor Day holiday and last week’s inclement weather.

Twenty of the new cases are students, while seven are employees. Three students living off-campus who were exhibiting symptoms, and one without symptoms, were found to be infected in tests conducted by external providers.

That brings the total number of active cases among the UW community to 93: 16 students living on-campus, 64 students living off-campus and 13 employees living off-campus. Some 175 people are in 14-day quarantine due to exposure to infected individuals: 27 on-campus and 148 off-campus.

The total number of coronavirus cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 171.

“We know the virus is here, but we have been able to manage it in a manner that has kept our campus relatively safe,” Seidel said. “As the situation has changed rapidly and our understanding of the disease is growing, we’re developing new indicators and tactics to stay on top of it at UW. Everything we have done has one goal, and that is to be able to safely provide an in-person campus experience for the UW community.”

During the university’s next phase, scheduled for Sept. 28 through Nov. 20, all students will be welcome on campus, and courses will be delivered with a mixture of in-person and online instruction. In-person student activities will be expanded, and many campus buildings will be open, including Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center.

The university will operate a surveillance testing program under which all students, faculty and staff who come to campus will take saliva tests at least once a week.

During phase four, scheduled for Nov. 23 through Dec. 11, all courses and final exams will be conducted online. Students will leave the residence halls, except for those granted exceptions.

Campus buildings will shift to restricted access, and the surveillance testing program will continue for those remaining on campus.

Wyoming Now At 46 Coronavirus Deaths

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Coronavirus Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Four more Wyoming residents have died as a result of the coronavirus, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Monday.

The deaths involved Natrona and Sheridan county residents residents who had earlier tested positive for the virus. Wyoming has now recorded 46 deaths in the state related to the coronavirus.

The victims of the virus announced Monday included:

  • An older Natrona County woman with health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to the coronavirus. She had not been hospitalized;
  • An older Sheridan County man, also with higher-risk health conditions. He had been hospitalized;
  • An additional older Sheridan County man, also with higher-risk health conditions. He had not been hospitalized;
  • An older woman who was a Sheridan County resident who died in August after being exposed to the virus in an out-of-state long-term care facility where she was receiving care.

Deaths among Wyoming residents are added to the state’s coronavirus-related death total based on official death certificate information and the location of the person’s permanent residence.

Deaths among Wyoming residents who pass away in other states are not counted in both states.

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

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