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415 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 11,861 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming increased by 68 on Tuesday as the state reported 415 new laboratory-confirmed cases of the illness.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said the state also saw 113 new probable cases of COVID-19 and received reports of 460 recoveries.

Combined, the numbers left the state with 11,816 active cases, an increase of 68 from Monday.

Natrona County had the highest number of active cases at 2,634; Laramie County had 1,623; Albany County had 1,568; Campbell had 1,378; Fremont had 751; Sheridan had 617; Sweetwater had 456; Goshen had 409; Uinta had 388; Park had 310; Lincoln had 254; Platte had 173; Johnson had 171; Weston had 170; Washakie had 166; Teton had 139; Carbon had 135; Sublette had 116; Converse had 109; Big Horn had 92; Hot Springs had 78; Crook had 72, and Niobrara had 52.

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.

Reports of new cases Tuesday came from all but one county, Niobrara. The highest number of new cases was seen in Natrona and Campbell counties, 50.

The total number of confirmed cases seen since the coronavirus was first reported in Wyoming in mid-March stood at 25,975 on Tuesday with the reported increases.

The number of probable cases, meanwhile, increased by 113 Tuesday to total 3,984 since the pandemic began.

The reports of 460 recoveries brought to 17,896 the number of people to recover from the illness since mid-March.

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Washakie Health Officer Says He Was Ousted For Mask Order, Commissioner Disagrees

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Washakie County physician has been removed as the county’s public health officer because of his decision to seek a public health order mandating the use of face masks in public, he said.

However, the chairman of the Washakie County Commission said the termination of the contract of Dr. Ed Zimmerman had nothing to do with the public health order.

Zimmerman, in a Facebook post, announced that county commissioners, during a special meeting on Monday, terminated his contract as the county’s health officer.

“As many of you know, the County Commissioners were very unhappy with my decision to issue a Countywide mask mandate,” he said in his post. “The County Commissioners permission, however, was not needed to issue a mask mandate. This system is in place to ensure that medical decisions for the county are not overruled by those in political office.”

Fred Frandson, the commission’s chairman, declined to discuss the specific reason for the contract’s termination, citing the confidentiality of personnel issues.

He referred to published reports about a commission meeting last week.

“You can read the … report of the county commissioners meeting that happened and you would understand this isn’t about a mask,” he said.

Zimmerman’s post said he met with commissioners for several hours to discuss the reasoning behind the order that was approved by state public health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist.

“I am profoundly disappointed and personally feel that our County Commissioners have chosen politics over the safety of Washakie County residents while in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

Zimmerman was one of more than a dozen county health officers to ask the state to approve county-level mask orders.

In at least two other counties, Uinta and Carbon, commissioners said they were not told about the orders until the requests for their approval had been submitted to the state.

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.

Zimmerman said he felt the mask order was necessary to save lives.

“At this point, I believe everyone in Washakie County knows the masks are strongly recommended, yet VERY few followed the recommendations,” he said. “I believe that a masking mandate will save several lives of Washakie County residents and I do not regret signing the mandate.”

Washakie County commissioners, in an open letter to county residents issued last week, said in seeking the order, Zimmerman acted without the input of an emergency operations team that included Zimmerman, county commissioners, law enforcement personnel and others.

“The decision on Nov. 18 to go to a mask mandate effectively took the commission and the team out of the decision-making process,” the letter said. “The Washakie County Commissioners are evaluating our options in regard to re-establishing our management and influence back into decisions made for Washakie County and we will make a decision soon.”

The letter said commissioners were concerned the mandate could have the opposite of its desired effect.

“We are concerned that the angst against the mask mandate will make people resistant to doing what they need to do to protect themselves, our families, and our community from the spread of Covid 19,” the letter said.

Commissioners urged residents to take precautions including the use of a face mask if social distancing is impossible to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We can all be proactive in our individual choices instead of waiting for someone to make a mandate,” the letter said. “Ultimately, this matter is up to each and every county resident.”

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Washakie County Sheriff: “We Are Not Going To Be The Mask Police”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Washakie County Sheriff’s Department will not act as “the mask police” and won’t track anyone down for not following the orders, according to Sheriff Steven Rakness.

Rakness told county residents that he hoped all of them would practice common sense when it came to wearing masks in public places to slow the spread of coronavirus.

However, he added law enforcement officers would not issue citations to those not wearing a mask in keeping with the county’s mask mandate.

“We here at the Washakie County Sheriff’s Office and the Worland Police Department are not going to be the mask police, nor are we going to track people down for not wearing a mask,” he said.

Rakness urged residents to act on their own to comply with the order in order to stop the spread of the virus. The sheriff added that either the sheriff’s department or the Worland Police Department may speak with business owners if they find out owners aren’t following the order.

“Be respectful and abide by what local business[es] or facilities have in place regarding the…mandate to wear a mask,” he said. “We will enforce incidents involving breach of peace, disorderly conduct and interference with a peace officer.”

He added that the city, county and state couldn’t handle another shutdown such as the one imposed in the spring to slow the spread of the illness.

“What we don’t want is another economic shutdown. I don’t think we can weather another shutdown again,” Rakness said. “I’m doing my best here to keep the Law Enforcement Center opened up and running, making sure County residents can utilize our services for background checks, finger-prints, concealed firearms permits and jail inmate visitation. So please, help us help you. I know no one likes this, I don’t either, but we need to stop the spread of this virus.”

The Lincoln County sheriff and attorney also recently spoke out, saying they wouldn’t enforce the mandate, but still urged people to use caution and common sense.

Rakness’ comments came after Washakie County commissioners said they were left out of the decision by Dr. Ed Zimmerman, the county’s health officer, to ask the state to approve a mask mandate for the county.

On Monday, commissioners terminated Zimmerman’s contract to serve as county health officer. Zimmerman said he was removed because of the mask order, however, Fred Frandson, commission chairman, said the decision had nothing to do with the mask order.

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Gordon’s Office Closed Tuesday After COVID Exposure

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

Gov. Mark’s Gordon’s office was forced to close Tuesday due to one of his staff members testing positive for the coronavirus.

The office was to be thoroughly cleaned on Tuesday to prepare for reopening on Wednesday.

Staff members considered close contacts of the employee who tested positive have been notified and may have to quarantine, according to a release from the office. Gordon isn’t required to quarantine, but is working remotely out an abundance of caution, it said.

Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman 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.”

He added that the one-day closure is per state policy, which requires a 24-hour closure and deep cleaning when a confirmed positive individual has worked in a state office.

Pearlman affirmed the office would reopen on Wednesday so someone would be available to answer phones and receive deliveries.

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1,251 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 11,793 Active

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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 number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming increased by 607 on Monday as the state reported 1,251 new confirmed cases of the virus.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said 11 new probable cases were also reported, while reports of 629 recoveries were received.

Combined, the numbers left the state with 11,793 active cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 607 over Sunday’s figures.

Natrona County had 2,601 active cases; Laramie County had 1,689; Albany County had 1,535; Campbell County had 1,352; Fremont had 761; Sheridan had 586; Sweetwater had 481; Goshen had 387; Uinta had 375; Park had 306; Lincoln had 246; Teton had 169; Platte had 168; Johnson and Weston had 160; Washakie had 152; Carbon had 141; Converse had 122; Sublette had 109; Big Horn had 97; Hot Springs had 76; Crook had 72, and Niobrara had 48.

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.

All of Wyoming’s counties except for Weston reported an increase in confirmed cases, with Laramie County having the highest number of new cases at 238.

The new confirmed cases brought the total of confirmed cases seen since the first coronavirus case was detected in Wyoming in mid-March to 25,560.

The number of probable cases, meanwhile, grew to 3,871 with the reporting of 11 new probable cases. A probable case is defined as one where the patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case, but has not been tested.

The number of people to recover from confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus stood at 17,436 on Monday with the new reports of 629 recoveries.

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Wyoming’s Covid Death Rate Falls As Case Numbers Rise

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Although the number of coronavirus cases and related deaths have increased dramatically in Wyoming over the last four months, the rate of deaths attributed to the illness has actually fallen by about half, according to Wyoming Department of Health figures.

Figures from the department’s coronavirus information website show that as of Thursday, the 176 deaths of Wyoming residents tied to the virus amounted to a fatality rate of 0.8% of confirmed cases. That equals about one death for every 125 laboratory-confirmed cases.

The rate is lower than that seen in mid-July, when the 24 reported deaths amounted to about 1.5% of those testing positive for the disease — about one death for every 67 positive cases.

Wyoming’s rate of deaths among those infected with coronavirus is far below the national rate. The Centers for Disease Control reported that as of Monday, about 2.1% of those infected with the virus have died.

The rate of coronavirus-related deaths among Wyoming’s population as a whole as of Thursday was 0.03% — three one-hundredths of one percent, about one death for every 3,288 people.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people testing positive for the illness has increased steadily since July.

In mid-July, the rate of positive results for tests taken over a 14-day period was 2.9%, a number that fell to 2% in September before climbing steadily to grow to 15.2% as of Thursday.

Nationally, John Hopkins University of Medicine reports a positive test rate of 9.8% over a seven-day period.

Also increasing steadily in Wyoming has been the number of tests conducted each day. On July 16, 1,102 tests were conducted and 3.14% were positive. On Nov. 16, 16.9% of the 5,061 tests conducted returned a positive result.

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Lincoln County Attorney Confirms He Won’t Enforce Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Lincoln County attorney confirmed late last week that his office will not be enforcing the county’s newly issued mask mandate.

Spencer Allred issued a statement on Friday through the Lincoln County Republican Party Facebook page that addressed the mandate, saying he wouldn’t enforce it for constitutional and logistical reasons.

“I believe that these decisions should ultimately be up to the duly elected legislative body, elected officials, and the Supreme Court,” Allred said in the post.

He said he understood the concerns of both those who support and oppose the mask mandate. He also expressed concern about the coronavirus pandemic and for those who are considered at-risk.

“While I do not believe that forcing individuals to wear a mask is the answer, I would ask that each of us, as fellow citizens and neighbors, try to be understanding and respect the rights and the health choices of others,” Allred said. “We are all fortunate to call Lincoln County our home. We have seen the divisions in our country over the last year deepen to the point that civility and respect are becoming a thing of the past.”

“I am confident that we in Lincoln County will continue to rise above that even if we have differing opinions,” he added.

This is the second Lincoln County official to speak out about the mask mandate. The local sheriff’s department also went on record last week, saying they wouldn’t enforce the mandate, but that private business owners had every right to enforce it in their stores.

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742 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming on Sunday; 11,186 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of active coronavirus cases went back over the 11,000 mark on Sunday with 742 new confirmed cases reported from around the state.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said in addition to the 742 new confirmed cases, 17 new probable cases were reported in the previous 24 hours.

The increase in cases, when combined with new reports of 277 recoveries, left the state with 11,186 active cases, an increase of 482 over Saturday’s numbers.

Natrona County had the highest number of active cases at 2,480; Laramie County had 1,588; Albany County had 1,439; Campbell County had 1,297; Fremont had 763; Sheridan had 499; Sweetwater had 412; Goshen had 359; Uinta had 355; Park had 305; Lincoln had 234; Teton had 194; Weston had 169; Pltte had 161; Johnson had 149; Washakie had 143; Converse had 126; Carbon had 124; Sublette had 111; Big Horn had 81; Crook had 72; Hot Springs had 66, and Niobrara had 59.

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

Every county in the state reported an increase in confirmed cases Sunday, with Natrona County reporting the largest number at 115. Laramie County had 105 new cases.

The increase in confirmed cases brought to 24,309 the number seen since the first case was diagnosed in Wyoming in mid-March.

The number of probable cases, meanwhile, increased by 17 to total 3,860 since mid-March.

The 277 new reports of recoveries meant that 16,807 people have recovered from confirmed or probable coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

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Wyoming Hospital Association Director Says Statewide Mask Mandate Important For Curbing COVID

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

A statewide mask mandate remains an important part of preventing the spread of coronavirus, although Gov. Mark Gordon declined to issue such an order, according to the director of the Wyoming Hospital Association.

In an email to Cowboy State Daily, WHA Director Eric Boley reiterated that the organization still feels masks are “super important to bending the curve and curbing the outbreak.”

“It is a simple thing that allows us to help ourselves and also shows that we want to help others,” Boley said to Cowboy State Daily. “There are many counties that will not impose a mask mandate on their own and we feel that a statewide mandate is the only way to ensure that there is a directive across the entire state.”

Earlier this month, the WHA, the Wyoming Medical Society and the state’s county health officers signed a letter to Gordon, asking him to implement a statewide mask mandate.

Gordon has hesitated to do so, and avoided doing just that in his recent health orders, which limited the number of people in crowds, both in and outside.

Since Gordon hasn’t passed a statewide order, many counties have decided to do it themselves, with counties like Teton, Laramie, Carbon Sublette passing mandates in recent weeks.

‘We realize enforcement may be difficult but in an attempt to help keep businesses open, to keep people safer and healthier and to ease the strain on our healthcare providers and facilities we would really like to see a statewide directive,” Boley said.

A call placed to the Wyoming Medical Society wasn’t answered, and the group’s spokeswoman was out of the office until Monday.

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Enzi Joins Barrasso In Praising Benefits Of Early COVID Treatment

in Coronavirus/News/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Outgoing U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi has joined his colleague Sen. John Barrasso in praising the newly announced rapid coronavirus test.

During a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, Enzi emphasized that the country is learning more about potential early treatment options for the virus.

The rapid test would give results within half an hour, allowing patients to have more time to contact anyone they’ve recently been around, as Barrasso pointed out during a Fox Business appearance this week.

“People aren’t looking for next year’s answer, they’re looking for this year’s answer,” Enzi said. “I see a real state of panic, mostly because they think until the vaccine comes out there is no answer.”

The committee also heard from panelist George Fareed, a medical director and family medicine specialist, who highlighted the benefit of treatment “cocktails” that can help when someone tests positive for the virus.

Fareed said cocktail options are “extremely well tolerated” and are available with a doctor’s prescription. He noted some countries are dispensing packets that patients can bring home off-the-shelf that can help with early treatment of the virus. 

Enzi said the hearing was the first time he had had heard explanations from health officials in the Senate about the critical nature of early treatments for the virus.

Dr. Peter McCullough, vice chief of internal medicine at Baylor University Medical Center, said there is a treatment algorithm that has been peer-reviewed by a journal listed in the National Library of Medicine.

“This is the best available science,” McCullough said. 

McCullough said there is evidence to support each component of the treatment algorithm and added that it’s crucial for everyone to take this pandemic seriously to avoid mass mortality in the coming weeks.

“I appreciate all this information on early treatment,” Enzi said. “Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. That’s with everything that we know about when you get sick. But when people are thinking maybe they will die, they want some kind of solution.”

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