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Teenage Girl Arrested At Laramie High After Being Suspended For Not Wearing Mask

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A teenage girl who defied the mask mandate implemented by the Albany County School District was arrested on Thursday.

Grace Smith, 16, was arrested on Thursday at Laramie High School due to her refusal to leave the school after she was suspended for not wearing a mask. The officer told her it was considered trespassing.

Her father, Andy Smith, posted videos of his daughter being suspended by district superintendent Dr. Jubal Yennie to YouTube, as well as two videos of her being arrested and taken into custody.

“You are taking away her rights as a citizen of the state provided to her by the constitution of Wyoming,” Andy Smith told school officials when his daughter was suspended.

Yennie told Grace and her father that she was being suspended due to her continued refusal to wear a mask when in school, despite the mandate.

Grace went into custody willingly and was polite with officers when arrested, the videos show.

The school district implemented a mask mandate in early September after Albany County and Wyoming’s COVID cases continue to climb, as well as its hospitalizations. Its mask mandate is slated to expire on Oct. 15, unless school officials decide to extend it.

The Smiths spoke with State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, on Thursday following her arrest about the incident. The video was posted to social media on Friday.

Grace explained she has been suspended from school for six days, three separate two-day suspensions, and received $1,000 in trespassing fines for refusing to leave school grounds “because I had the right to education.”

“It makes me feel unwanted by the school system,” Grace told Bouchard. “It makes me stressed out that I have to fight this battle as a 16-year-old. Right now, I should be playing sports and having fun. And instead I’m fighting for the rights that were supposed to be won hundreds of years ago.”

Andy Smith added that the family has taken every opportunity to inform every authority figure that has issued suspensions or trespassing fines that they are infringing on the Smiths’ constitutional rights.

“Law enforcement informed us they were operating under the pretense…she was not in compliance with the trespassing orders,” Andy Smith told Bouchard. “They said they have no choice to arrest her because she is not complying with the trespassing citation. When asked if they’re arresting her for not wearing a mask, they’ll say no.”

The school was also put under a lockdown order for more than an hour due to Grace’s arrest, her father said.

Grace added she has been called “vulgar” names by peers, had terrible things said to her by teachers and seen other parents discriminate against her due to her refusal to wear a mask in school.

“I am a straight-A student,” Grace told Bouchard. “I’ve never broken the law. I would never choose to do anything wrong and I never saw myself sitting in the back of a cop car, handcuffed.”

Andy Smith also said that no officials have been able to provide a law, statute or any legal information on why they can enforce the mandate against his daughter, implying that the family might sue due to the situation.

Bouchard said this was an example of COVID tyranny in the state and that officials would ignore the constitution to make people fall in line.

“I don’t see an end here, I see that that we just keep being told to do something else,” the senator said.

Carbon County Republican Party chairman Joey Correnti IV shared a post on social media supporting the teenager, saying “Wyoming needs more Grace.”

The Smith family did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.

In an interview with Cowboy State Politics, Andy Smith told host David Iverson that Grace made the decision for herself to not wear a mask, and it was nothing her family forced on her.

He added that initially when the mandate was implemented in September, the school district was going to allow exemption forms, but Yennie ultimately revoked them and only allowed exemptions under eight criteria, none of which Grace met.

Andy Smith told Iverson that he thinks Grace was empowering other students to defy the mask mandate and that school officials were picking on his daughter.

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475 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Thursday; 614 Recoveries; 3,816 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus increased by 67 on Thursday.   

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 614 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Thursday. 

At the same time, the state reported 475 new laboratory-confirmed and 206 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,816 active cases for Thursday

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases and seven had more than 200. Natrona County had 711; Campbell had 374; Laramie 337; Fremont 298; Sheridan 251; Park 249; Uinta 234; Sweetwater 186;  Lincoln and Washakie 147; Albany 138; Converse 106; Big Horn 95; Goshen 94; Sublette 90; Carbon and Platte 71; Weston 48; Johnson 46; Teton 40; Crook 37; Hot Springs had 26, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases, with 20.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 93,764 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 88,907have recovered.

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375 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Wednesday; 83 Recoveries; 3,749 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total increased by 483 on Wednesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health said it received reports of 83 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases Wednesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 375 new laboratory-confirmed and 191 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,749 active cases for Wednesday

Thirteen counties have more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than being over 200. Natrona County had 659; Campbell had 394; Laramie 337; Fremont 294; Park 244; Sheridan 225; Uinta 223; Sweetwater 177; Albany 158; Washakie 148; Lincoln 144; Converse 109; Goshen 105; Big Horn 98; Sublette 84; Platte 73; Carbon 65; Johnson 50; Crook 45; Weston 35; Teton 34, Hot Springs had 33, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases, with 15. No county reported zero 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, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 93,083 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 88,293 have recovered.

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Longtime Cheyenne News Anchor Fired Over Vaccine Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A longtime Cheyenne news anchor was fired from her job over the weekend due to her refusal to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and her exemption to the vaccination was denied.

Kerri Hayden of KGWN-TV worked her last day at the TV station on Saturday and penned a note to her viewers on social media afterward.

“After 25 years, my time at KGWN TV has come to an end,” Hayden wrote. “I value the freedom we all have to make our own informed decisions, however my right to choose was taken by a billion dollar company whose owners never even met me.”

She said that while she was neither for nor against the vaccine, she believed Americans had the right to decide what was best for them when it came to medical decisions.

Hayden noted that she submitted a request for an exemption to the vaccination mandate, but it was denied. She refused to get the vaccine, so she was fired from the station.

“I’ve made the decision to not allow Gray TV to control my personal choices,” she said.

According to PR firm Broadcasting+Cable, Gray TV sent out a memo to employees in August that they would be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

Hayden was not the only Gray TV employee to lose her job over the mandate. A Nebraksa meteorologist, a Mississippi TV news anchor and a Missouri reporter were all fired from the company due to their refusal to get vaccinated, just to name a few examples.

In September, President Joe Biden announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested for the illness weekly. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be responsible for levying fines against companies that do not comply with the mandate.

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45 COVID Deaths Bring Wyoming’s Fatality Total To 1,041

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming residents whose deaths have been tied to coronavirus has increased to more than 1,000 with Tuesday’s announcement that the deaths of another 45 residents have been linked to the illness.

The Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday that the deaths, reported among residents of 16 counties, brought the total number of fatalities blamed in the illness since it was first detected in Wyoming to 1,041.

Most of the deaths occurred in September and early October, although one was recorded in February.

The victims included eight Campbell County residents, five men and three women, who all died in September or in the last week. Five were hospitalized prior to their deaths.

Seven Laramie County residents were also reported to have died in September, five women and two men. Six were hospitalized prior to their deaths.

Six Park County residents were also among those whose deaths have been linked to COVID, five men and one woman. All died in September except for one man who died in February after being hospitalized in another state.

Five Sweetwater County residents also died, four men and one woman, as did four Goshen County men. Other victims included an Albany County man, a Big Horn County woman, a Fremont County man and woman, a Hot Springs County man, two Johnson County men, a Natrona County woman, a Platte County man, a Sheridan County man and woman, a Sublette County woman, a Uinta County man and a Washakie County man and woman.

The news came as Health Department figures showed the number of active coronavirus cases stood at 3,266 on Tuesday, an increase of 92 from Monday.

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341 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 401 Recoveries; 3,266 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total increased by 92 on Tuesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health said it received reports of 401 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 341 new laboratory-confirmed and 287 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,266 active cases for Tuesday.

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases and seven had more than 200. Natrona County had 539; Campbell 343; Laramie had 284; Fremont 261; Park 218; Uinta 209; Sheridan 204; Sweetwater 141; Washakie 139; Albany 137; Lincoln 119; Big Horn 105; Converse 99; Goshen 87; Sublette 78; Platte 63; Carbon 49; Johnson 42; Crook 40; Teton 39; Weston 34; and Hot Springs had 24, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases, with 12.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 92,517 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 88,210 have recovered.

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627 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Monday; 1,461 Recoveries; 3,174 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus decreased by 651 over the weekend.

The Wyoming Department of Health said it received reports of 1,461 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases between Friday and Monday. 

At the same time, the state reported 627 new laboratory-confirmed and 183 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,174 active cases for Monday.

This is the lowest number of active cases seen in Wyoming since Aug. 24, when the number of active cases was 2,949. 

Eleven counties had more than 100 active cases, with five having more than 200. Natrona County continued to leave the state with 512 active cases; Campbell had 352; Laramie had 270; Fremont 260; Uinta 211; Park 196; Sheridan 190; Sweetwater 169; Washakie 135; Albany 133; Lincoln 110; Big Horn 95; Converse 89; Goshen 81; Sublette 74; Platte 68; Carbon 50; Teton 44; Johnson 36; Crook 34; Weston 32; Hot Springs had 20, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases, with 13.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 91,979 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. 

Of those, 87,809 have recovered.

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Cheyenne Attorney Says It Is ‘Repulsive’ For YouTube To Censor Users Over Vaccinations

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne attorney and former congressional candidate has declared YouTube’s ban of anti-vaccination content from its platform to be illegal censorship and in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney Darin Smith told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that YouTube’s recent move to ban and remove all anti-vaccination content from the platform was “absolutely illegal.”

“They’re canceling people’s constitutional rights and it absolutely flies in the face of the Constitution,” he said. “We’ve given them way too much power. These companies have more power than probably any country on the planet right now.”

Last week, YouTube (which is owned by Google) announced it would remove all anti-vaccination content from the platform, explaining its current community guidelines have been extended to cover “currently administered” vaccines that have been proven safe by the World Health Organization and other health officials, according to NPR.

The mandate went into effect immediately, with some prominent names (including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) already seeing their accounts banned due to what YouTube said was misinformation.

Smith said at this point, Google, YouTube and Facebook were no longer private companies but are more like public utilities. Additionally, they have monopolized the markets for search engines, user-created video content and social media, he said.

“I would say that Google and Facebook have been the worst offenders in trampling on people’s rights if they don’t agree with what somebody says,” Smith said. “Clearly, that needs to be stopped. We made them and then they got so big and powerful that it’s empowered by the state and they can have zero liability or accountability to the public.”

He added that while the anti-vaccination content removal is currently the big news, Google and YouTube (along with other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook) have quietly been censoring people and accounts with which they do not agree for a long time.

Smith pointed to users and videos that questioned the outcome of November’s presidential election as an example of a subject being “shadowbanned,” when someone’s content is hidden or restricted without the person who posted it being notified.

YouTube had earlyer banned content that contained false claims about the COVID vaccines, but the new policy will extend to a number of other vaccines.

Smith’s comments were in contrast with fellow Cheyenne attorney Bruce Moats’ comments last week that said what YouTube was doing was perfectly legal.

“The adoption of the 14th Amendment after the Civil War guaranteed individuals free speech, and the other protections in the First Amendment, against infringements by state and local governments,” Moats told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “Nothing in either (the First or 14th amendments) makes it apply to private individuals or businesses.”

Smith encouraged anyone who was concerned about the YouTube ban to contact their politicians from the federal to local level.

“Regardless of what side of the issue you’re on, people should know they should be about freedom and resistance to tyranny is obedience to God,” he said. “We have God-given rights in America, the only country in the world where our right are derived from God. Everybody should be fighting for medical freedom here and this should be repulsive to everybody.”

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398 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Friday; 737 Recoveries; 3,825 Active Cases

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 170 on Friday to start October.

The Wyoming Department of Health received new reports of 737 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Friday.

At the same time, the state reported 398 new laboratory-confirmed and 169 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,825 active cases for Friday. 

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than 200. Natrona County had 655; Campbell 417; Fremont 346; Laramie 304; Sweetwater 261; Sheridan 211; Park 204; Uinta 185; Washakie 161; Albany 158; Lincoln 133; Big Horn 108; Converse 105; Sublette 102; Goshen 86; Platte 75; Carbon 73; Teton 69; Crook 50; Johnson 43; Weston 38; Hot Springs had 22, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases, with 19.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 91,169 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 86,348 have recovered.

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City Of Casper Implements Vaccine Incentive For Employees, Family Members

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Casper city employees are now eligible for a vaccine incentive that will not only be offered to them, but extended to their family members, spouses and dependents, as well.

The Casper City Council voted 6-2, albeit informally, on Tuesday during a work session to approve the incentive program, which offers $250 to city employees (full-time, part-time and fire and emergency service workers) who are either vaccinated or get fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

However, unlike many vaccine incentive programs implemented across the state, city employees’ family members, spouses and other dependents can also receive $100 if they get fully vaccinated by the end of the year. Employees who have already been fully vaccinated can also receive an additional $50 for getting a booster shot.

The program is completely voluntary, though.

City officials are hoping that through this program, around 65% of the city staff will be vaccinated against the virus by the end of the year, they said during the city council meeting on Tuesday.

Councilman Bruce Knell was one of the two council members who voted against the incentive program.

“I am 100% against using taxpayer dollars to bribe or coerce someone to take a vaccine,” he said.

The money to pay for the incentive is coming from both the city’s CARES Act relief funds and funds from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

In September, the Laramie County School District No. 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, offered a one-time incentive of $500 to employees who are already fully vaccinated or are willing to undergo bi-monthly COVID tests.

In late July, the City of Cheyenne announced it would offer extra vacation hours for full-time employees or additional payroll hours for part-time and seasonal employees who were fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center employees who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 are eligible for the following: full-time employees can receive either 16 hours of paid time off or a $600 bonus, part-time employees can receive either eight hours of PTO or a $300 bonus and PRN employees (those hired on an on-call basis) will receive a $150 bonus.

Editor’s note: The original headline said the city was implementing a mandate, when they are actually implementing a vaccine incentive. That was a mistake and we have corrected that. We apologize for the error.

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528 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Thursday; 676 Recoveries; 3,995 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus count decreased by 39 on Thursday from Wednesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports Thursday of 676 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 528 new laboratory-confirmed and 109 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,995 active cases for Thursday. 

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases and seven had more than 200. Natrona County had 697; Campbell 418; Fremont 387; Laramie 303; Sweetwater 266; Park and Sheridan 209; Uinta 180; Albany 159; Washakie 152; Lincoln 149; Converse 120; Big Horn 104; Sublette 102; Goshen 99; Teton 85; Carbon 84; Platte 68; Crook 59; Johnson 47; Weston 41; Niobrara had 32, while Hot Springs had 25.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 90,602 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 85,611 have recovered.

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446 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Wednesday; 163 Recoveries; 4,034 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case tally increased by 372 on Wednesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 163 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 446 new laboratory-confirmed and 89 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,034 active cases for Tuesday. 

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than 200. Natrona County had 681; Fremont 399; Campbell 398; Laramie 321; Sweetwater 287; Uinta 222; Park 209; Sheridan 192; Albany 166; Lincoln 159; Washakie 138; Converse 119; Sublette 107; Teton 103; Goshen 98; Big Horn 97; Carbon 84; Crook 59; Platte 58; Johnson 45; Weston 40; Niobrara had 33, while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases with 19.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 89,965 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 84,935 have recovered.

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41 More Wyoming Deaths Linked to Covid

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Another 41 Wyoming deaths have been linked to the coronavirus, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The department announced Tuesday that the deaths bring to 996 the number of Wyoming residents whose deaths have been tied to the virus since it was first detected in the state in March 2020.

All of the deaths occurred in August or September, the department said.

Six of the victims, five women and one men, were Laramie County residents, while four others, three men and one woman, were from Fremont County.

Four Natrona County residents, two men and two women, also died in September, as did four Park County residents, three men and one woman, and four Platte County residents, three men and one woman.

Other victims included an Albany County man and woman, two Big Horn County men, three Campbell County men, a Carbon County man and a Converse County woman.

A Crook County man’s death was also linked to COVID, as was the death of a Goshen County man, a Niobrara County man, a Sheridan County man, a Sweetwater County man and woman, a Teton County woman and two Uinta County men.

The announcement came as the Health Department announced the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming declined for a second consecutive day Tuesday, falling by 45 from Monday to total 3,662.

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Gillette Hospital Board Pushes Back Against Vaccine Mandate: We Don’t Like The Feds Telling Us What To Do

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The board of trustees for the hospital in Gillette made it clear late last week that it would not be pushed around by the federal government regarding a vaccine mandate, its members said in a letter to President Joe Biden.

Earlier this month, Biden announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested for the illness weekly. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be responsible for levying fines against companies that do not comply with the mandate.

In a letter posted on the hospital’s website Friday, the Campbell County Health board of trustees called Biden’s vaccine mandate “gross federal overreach” and expressed concern that it would cause health care workers to quit their jobs in protest.

“Implementing such mandates in our community could leave us without enough healthcare workers to care for our elderly and sick, including those with COVID-19,” the board’s letter said.

“This will not only deflate our already declining workforce, but leave our organization in a critical staffing predicament that we have never dealt with. Our hospital and other facilities cannot operate without our devoted staff. Without them, healthcare services in our community, as well as the ones we care for would suffer tremendously,” it read.

Campbell County Health is host to the Campbell County Memorial Hospital, a 90-bed acute care hospital, as well as 20 clinics, a long-term care facility and surgery center. In total, CCH employs around 1,100 people, including almost 80 physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

As of Monday, Campbell County had the second-highest active COVID case count in the state, with 398. It also had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with only 22.3% of the population being vaccinated against the virus, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The board also said that Campbell County was “proudly conservative” and did not like the federal government telling them what to do.

“The Board of Trustees does not condone this stomach-churning attempt of government overreach,” the board said, referencing the Wyoming Constitution, which grants each competent adult the right to make his or her own health care decisions. “We believe in personal freedom, and do not agree with forcing our employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.”

The board said that while the health organization may have to comply with the vaccine mandate in order to keep its state licensure and the doors open, it will support the efforts of Gov. Mark Gordon, Wyoming’s congressional delegation and the state Legislature to fight back against the policy.

“It simply does not align with our community’s values,” the board said. “Throughout the existence of the pandemic, our entire staff has worked tirelessly to continue offering the highest level of quality care throughout the community. They have served during this crisis, under sometimes hazardous conditions, they have experienced burnout, and they have cared for their own families while simultaneously caring for the community.”

“During this time, the Board of Trustees continue to hold the opinion that our employees are best equipped to make their own personal healthcare decisions,” the letter added.

Gov. Mark Gordon is considering calling a special session as early as October to address the vaccine mandate.

Gordon said he has advised Attorney General Bridget Hill to begin preparing a lawsuit to stop the mandate as it applies to private employers and has also started talking with legislators about holding a special legislative session, if necessary, to address the federal order.

“We cannot sit on our hands just watching this egregious example of federal government overreach,” Gordon said in a statement. “We are already communicating with other governors and states to prepare legal options once emergency standards are issued.”

The need for a special legislative session will be determined by the nature of the federal rules adopted to put the mandate in place, Gordon said.

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272 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 499 Recoveries; 3,662 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 45 on Tuesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 499 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 272 new laboratory-confirmed and 223 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,662 active cases, a decline of 45 from Monday. 

Fifteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with eight having more than 200. Natrona County had 620; Campbell 369; Fremont 308; to 326; Laramie had 297; Uinta 276; Sweetwater 247; Park 211; Sheridan 176; Lincoln 144; Albany 139; Washakie 113; Converse 106; Big Horn 103; Teton 102; Sublette 93; Goshen 70; Carbon 66; Crook 56; Platte 50; Johnson 44; Weston 34; Niobrara had 24, while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 14.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 89,430 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 84,772 have recovered.

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424 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Monday, 1,510 Recoveries; 3,707 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 441 over the weekend.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 1,510 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases between Friday and Monday.

At the same time, the state reported 424 new laboratory-confirmed and 215 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,707 active cases for Friday. Twelve counties have more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than 200.

Natrona County continued to have the highest number of active cases Monday with 603. Campbell had 373; Fremont had 326; Laramie had 298; Uinta 296; Sweetwater 284; Park 214; Sheridan 166; Albany and Teton 145; Lincoln 132; Converse 97; Big Horn 95; Washakie 94; Sublette 81; Goshen 72; Carbon 67; Crook 53; Platte 46; Johnson 43; Weston 35; Niobrara had 27, and Hot Springs had 15.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 88,935 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. 

Of those, 84,273 have recovered.

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363 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Friday; 770 Recoveries; 4,148 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total declined by 255 to end the week.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 770 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Friday. 

At the same time, the state reported 363 new laboratory-confirmed and 152 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,148 active cases for Friday. 

Fifteen counties had more than 100 active cases and eight had more than 200. Natrona County had 695; Campbell had 462; Fremont 422; Laramie 319; Sweetwater 273; Uinta 256; Sheridan 214; Park 202; Albany 163; Lincoln 153; Teton 142; Big Horn 134; Converse 111; Washakie 106; Goshen 94; Sublette 82; Carbon 78; Crook 61; Johnson 50; Platte and Weston 35; Niobrara had 33, and Hot Springs had 28.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 87,866 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 82,763 have recovered.

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641 New Coronavirus Cases Thursday; 649 Recovered; 4,403 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total increased by 108 on Thursday from Wednesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received new reports of 649 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases Thursday. 

At the same time, the state reported 641 new laboratory-confirmed and 116 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,403 active cases for Thursday. 

Fifteen counties have more than 100 active cases and eight have more than 200. 

Natrona County increased continued to lead the state with 740 active cases; Campbell had 479; Fremont 422; Laramie 340; Sweetwater 295; Uinta 256; Sheridan 235; Park 208; Lincoln 173; Teton 170; Albany 169; Big Horn and Converse 138; Goshen and Washakie 106; Carbon 87; Sublette 81; Crook 67; Johnson 55; Niobrara 49; Hot Springs 31; Platte had 30, while Weston reported the fewest active cases, with 28.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 87,351 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 81,993 have recovered.

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Cheyenne Hospital Sees Increase In Employees Vaccinations After Incentive Program

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One of the largest hospitals in Wyoming saw a significant increase in vaccination rates among its employees after implementing a vaccine incentive program.

Two months after announcing its vaccine incentive program, the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has seen a 15% increase among employee vaccinations, its CEO told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

“On July 22 of this year, we announced an incentive initiative to promote employees voluntarily receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” hospital CEO Tim Thornell told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “The incentive gave employees a choice of additional (paid time off) or a single cash payment for getting their COVID-19 vaccine. Prior to the initiative we had about 60% of our staff fully vaccinated. With the incentive in place for two months now, we are at about 75% of our staff fully vaccinated, so we have seen an appreciable improvement in our vaccination rate.”

CRMC employees who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 are eligible for the following: full-time employees can receive either 16 hours of paid time off or a $600 bonus, part-time employees can receive either eight hours of PTO or a $300 bonus and PRN employees (those hired on an on-call basis) will receive a $150 bonus.

This is in contrast to the Wyoming Medical Center and a number of Banner Health medical clinics across Wyoming, where employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 or lose their jobs.

As a state, Wyoming has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 37.1% of the population receiving either both of the two-shot vaccinations or the single-shot vaccination made by Jannsen.

A number of organizations in Wyoming have implemented vaccine incentive programs and at least some have seen success.

Earlier this month, the Laramie County School District No. 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, offered a one-time incentive of $500 to employees who are already fully vaccinated or are willing to undergo bi-monthly COVID tests.

District spokeswoman Mary Quast told Cowboy State Daily that approximately 1,345 employees have provided vaccination information for the incentive, approximately 56% of all permanent employees.

In late July, the city of Cheyenne announced it would offer extra vacation hours for full-time employees or additional payroll hours for part-time and seasonal employees who were fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

City spokesman Michael Skinner told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that 266 city employees, 49% of the full-time workforce, were vaccinated and will receive the incentive.

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421 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Wednesday; 67 Recoveries; 4,295 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming increased by 475 on Wednesday from Tuesday. 

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 67 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 421 new laboratory-confirmed and 121 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,295 active cases for Wednesday. 

Thirteen counties have more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than 200. Natrona County had 714; Campbell County had 491; Fremont Fremont had 381; Laramie 367; Sweetwater 294; Uinta 247; Sheridan 237; Park 197; Lincoln 193; Teton 165; Albany 163; Converse 154; Big Horn 120; Washakie 86; Goshen 84; Sublette 76; Carbon 74; Crook 73; Johnson 57; Niobrara 35; Hot Springs 32; Platte had 30, while Weston reported the fewest active cases, with 25.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 86,594 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 81,344 have recovered.

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306 New COVID Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 603 Recoveries; 3,820 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count decreased by 87 on Tuesday from Monday. 

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports Tuesday of 603 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 306 new laboratory-confirmed and 247 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,820 active cases for Tuesday. 

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases and seven had more than 200.

Natrona County had 622, Campbell 431; Fremont 356; Laramie 328;  Uinta 259; Sweetwater 243; Sheridan 222; Park 192; Lincoln 169; Teton 145; Albany 143; Converse 136; Big Horn 97; Crook 69; Goshen 67; Washakie 66; Carbon 60; Sublette 57; Johnson 43; Niobrara 33; Platte 29; Hot Springs had 28, and Weston County had 25.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 86,052 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. 

Of those, 81,277 have recovered.

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Wyoming Vaccine Incentive Programs See Some Success

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of organizations in Wyoming have implemented vaccine incentive programs and at least some have seen at least success, officials told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

As a state, Wyoming has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 37.1% of the population receiving either both of the two-shot vaccinations or the single-shot vaccination made by Jannsen.

Earlier this month, the Laramie County School District No. 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, offered a one-time incentive of $500 to employees who are already fully vaccinated or are willing to undergo bi-monthly COVID tests.

District spokeswoman Mary Quast told Cowboy State Daily that approximately 1,345 employees have provided vaccination information for the incentive, approximately 56% of all permanent employees.

She added that around 120 employees are participating in the twice-monthly COVID testing incentive.

“The first round of incentive payments will be made at the end of October to the employees who are participating in the vaccination incentive and have verified that they are fully vaccinated by October 1,” Quast said. “The second round of payments for fully vaccinated employees will go out at the end of January. Employees participating in the testing incentive will receive their incentive payments in January.”

Funding for the LCSD1 incentive comes from federal COVID relief funds.

In late July, the city of Cheyenne announced it would offer extra vacation hours for full-time employees or additional payroll hours for part-time and seasonal employees who were fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

City spokesman Michael Skinner told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that 266 city employees, 49% of the full-time workforce, were vaccinated and will receive the incentive.

The University of Wyoming has had one of the longest-running incentive programs in the state, having adopted it in the spring, not long after the COVID vaccines became widely available to the public.

Employees who report having been fully vaccinated are eligible for drawings for prizes such as iPads, AirPods and an Apple Watch, as well as a personal day off.

University spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the key for their incentive program is for employees not only to get vaccinated, but to report it.

“Our way to measure the success of the incentive programs is the number of people reporting vaccination, even though we can’t say for certain that the incentives prompted people to report,” he said.

Baldwin said that for employees, the reported vaccination numbers increased significantly after the university launched the incentive program. Currently, 76% of the university’s total benefited employees (2,193 of 2,883) reported having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Adding in the non-benefited employees, 3,466 of 6,416 (54%), have reported receiving at least one dose.

Among students, reported numbers have tripled since the incentive program began, with 4,342 students reported being vaccinated as of Monday, 41% of the total campus population.

“An anonymous survey at the start of the semester indicated 88 percent of employees and 66 percent of students have been vaccinated, so we know there’s still a significant number of people who haven’t taken the step of reporting,” Baldwin said.

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Wyoming Coronavirus Death Toll Rises To 955

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming deaths blamed on coronavirus grew to 955 on Tuesday as the Wyoming Department of Health released its latest compilation of COVID-related deaths.

The department said the 37 deaths it recorded in the past week occurred in July, August and September.

Ten Sweetwater County residents — six men and four women — were among the victims. All died in September and eight had been hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus.

Five Laramie County residents were also among the victims, three men and two women, all of whom died this month.

Other victims included an Albany County man who died in July, a Carbon County man and woman who died in September, a Converse County woman who died in September, two Crook County men who died in September, and a Goshen County man who died in August.

Four Fremont County residents, all men, died in August and September, while one Hot Springs County woman died in September, a Lincoln County man died in September, a Park County man died in September and a Sheridan County man died within the last week.

Two Natrona County residents — both men — died in September after being hospitalized, a Sublette County woman died in September, a Teton County woman died within the last week, a Uinta County man and woman died in September and a Weston County man died in September.

The announcement came as Department of Health figures showed the number of active coronavirus cases in the state declined by 87 on Tuesday to total 3,820.

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Gordon Deploys National Guard To Provide Hospital Assistance Across 17 Wyoming Cities

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is activating the Wyoming National Guard to temporarily assist with local hospitals due to a high number of COVID patients.

As of Monday, there were 202 COVID patients hospitalized across the state, according to Wyoming’s hospitalization tracker.

Gordon has called approximately 95 soldiers and airmen to active duty, assigning them to hospital facilities at 24 different sites within 17 Wyoming cities.

They will assist hospital and Wyoming Department of Health staff to help ease workloads imposed upon them due to large numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gordon said.

“I am grateful to the members of our Wyoming National Guard for once again answering the call to provide assistance in our hospitals during this surge,” he said. “Our Guard members truly are Wyoming’s sword and shield, and their commitment to our state is something for which every Wyoming citizen can be thankful.”

Guard members’ responsibilities will include: assisting in environmental cleanup in hospital facilities; food and nutrition service; COVID-19 screening; managing personal protective equipment supplies and other support tasks.

Some will also be trained to administer COVID-19 tests.

“The Delta variant has overwhelmed the medical institutions of states across this country.  Our state is no different with most hospitals at or near capacity,” said Col. David Pritchett, director of the joint staff for the Wyoming National Guard. “The Soldiers and Airmen of the Wyoming National Guard are proud to jump back in to provide much needed assistance to our communities as we continue to battle the effects of COVID-19.”

The orders for guardsmen will be 14-30 day rotations, with the potential to extend beyond that, up until Dec. 31. The numbers and locations of guardsmen may change based on hospital needs.

This is the second time the governor has activated the National Guard to help with strained Wyoming hospitals. In November, when Wyoming had record levels of COVID patients, Gordon deployed the guard to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center to assist hospital staff.

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1,345 New COVID Cases In Wyoming Monday, 1,840 Recoveries; 3,907 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case tally decreased by 299 over the weekend. 

The Wyoming Department of Health between Friday and Monday received reports of 1,840 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 1,354 new laboratory-confirmed and 187 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,907 active cases on Monday 

Twelve counties have more than 100 active cases and 10 have more than 200. Natrona County had 625 active cases; Campbell had 434; Fremont 382; Laramie 330; Sweetwater 285; Uinta 242; Sheridan 222; Teton 212; Park 201; Lincoln 163; Albany 136; Converse 121; Big Horn 89; Crook 71; Goshen 64; Carbon 60; Sublette 55; Washakie 54; Johnson 40; Hot Springs 38; Niobrara 30; Platte had 27, and Weston County reported the fewest active cases, with 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, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 85,499 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 80,674 have recovered.

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165 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Friday; 448 Recoveries: 4,206 Active Cases

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 133 to end the week Friday.

The Wyoming Department of Health said it received new reports Friday of 448 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 165 new laboratory-confirmed and 150 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,206 active cases for Friday. 

Twelve counties now have more than 100 active cases, with eight having more than 200. Natrona County continued to lead the stat in active cases Friday with 719; Campbell 423; Fremont 365; Laramie 348; Sweetwater 299; Sheridan 283; Uinta 272; Lincoln 208; Park 190′ Converse 167; Teton 156; Albany 150; Carbon 87; Goshen 80; Washakie 72; Big Horn and Crook 65; Sublette 61; Hot Springs 52; Platte 40; Johnson 37; Weston had 36, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases with 31. No county reported zero active cases for Friday. 

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 83,958 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 78,834 have recovered.

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Wyoming COVID Hospitalizations Drop To Under 200

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s coronavirus-related hospitalizations dropped to fewer than 200 this week, after the state’s hospitals saw the second-highest peak of the pandemic earlier this month.

As of Thursday, Wyoming had 194 COVID patients, according to the state’s hospitalization tracker.

The most patients were at the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, with 45. Cheyenne Regional Medical Center followed with 37 patients.

While there may have been somewhat of a downturn in the number of hospitalized patients this week, some intensive care units across the state are still full, such at the South Lincoln Medical Center in Kemmerer, Johnson County Healthcare in Buffalo, Powell Valley Healthcare and SageWest Health Care in Lander.

Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie only had one ICU bed left as of Thursday.

Statewide, there were only 52 ICU beds still available.

Just because someone is in the ICU doesn’t mean they have COVID.

Only 37 of the state’s available ventilators were in use, but as with the ICU, just because someone is on a ventilator doesn’t mean they have COVID.

The average seven-day positivity rate of COVID tests has increased in recent days, hitting 24.01% as of Thursday.

Wyoming Hospital Association president Eric Boley did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday. Last month, he told Cowboy State Daily that the best solution to combat the growing hospitalization numbers was for people to get vaccinated.

“We’re facing some real challenges, so wearing masks, washing your hands and social distancing will help,” he said in late August. “There’s a lot skepticism in our state about the solutions, but the truth is, COVID is right on our doorstep. Our hospitals and nursing homes are doing all they can, but we really need the public to help us out.”

At the time, the state’s hospitals were treating 178 COVID patients.

The state saw its second-highest hospitalization peak earlier this month, with 230 patients as of Sept. 7. The state’s highest number of hospitalizations was seen in late November, with around 250 patients.

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Laramie County Community College Implements Mask Mandate For Staff

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Dailyl

Laramie County Community College employees in Cheyenne and Laramie are being required to wear facemasks in college buildings due to a low rate of vaccination among the employees.

LCCC president Dr. Joe Schaffer sent out the mask guidance to LCCC employees on Thursday night, spokeswoman Lisa Trimble told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. The rules require masks when indoors on college property, including inside vehicles when social distancing is not possible.

Schaffer told employees that the requirement would be in place until either the COVID transmission risk levels in Laramie and Albany Counties is downgraded to at least moderate transmission or at least 80% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Of LCCC’s 364 employees, 206 have reported being vaccinated, which comes out to around 57%. The college would need at least 291 employees to verify they have been vaccinated for the requirement to end.

“Even when we meet these thresholds, we will continue to strongly recommend face coverings for all unvaccinated individuals,” Schaffer said.

While a mask requirement for students would be ideal, Schaffer said the college simply did not have the time or resources to enforce one, therefore masks are strongly recommended but not required for students.

Schaffer also said the college would continue to stock COVID testing supplies and make tests widely available to employees and students. Additionally, the college will re-implement surveillance testing of residence hall students who have not provided proof of vaccination.

Student athletes will be required to wear masks and be tested if they are not fully vaccinated when they are not competing.

Shaffer noted that due to the impacts COVID has had on the college’s human and fiscal resources, additional staffing and assistance would likely be required to implement the new rules.

The Cheyenne campus currently has 16 active cases, while the Laramie campus only has one.

Albany County had 150 active COVID cases as of Thursday, while Laramie County had 347.

The University of Wyoming was the first educational system in the state to implement a mask mandate for staff and students, and on Friday, the UW board of trustees voted to indefinitely extend the mandate.

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Wyo Dept Of Health: Outdoor Events Aren’t Focus Of COVID Transmission

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite reports of a few new COVID cases among students, the Wyoming Department of Health has no data to support the idea that the season’s first University of Wyoming home football game was a virus “super spreader.”

Department spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that while she has heard of a few COVID cases among students who attended the game on Sept. 4, she had no information to confirm the game was the source of exposure for those people.

“It has been our experience over the course of the pandemic that outdoor events have not been a focus of transmission,” Deti said.

On Sept. 3, the day before the first game, Albany County had 116 active cases. As of Thursday, the county had 150 active cases, an increase of 34 cases, or 29%. This would also coincide with the beginning of the fall semester, as well.

In the two weeks following Cheyenne Frontier Days, which was one of the biggest crowds the event has seen in years, Laramie County saw an increase of 235 active cases, an 84% increase.

However, just because there was not a significant uptick in COVID cases following the football game, Deti reminded residents to be aware of the challenges the pandemic is currently causing.

“We’ll say again that anyone who is feeling ill should stay home unless they are seeking medical attention,” she said. “We do recommend masks in indoor public settings and we recommend free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone who is eligible.”

The university offered free COVID vaccinations at the football game.

Albany County had the second-highest COVID vaccination rate in Wyoming, with 47.6% of its residents having been vaccinated, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

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University Of Wyoming Indefinitely Extends Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has extended for an indefinite period of time its requirement that people within its buildings wear facemasks, the university announced on Friday.

The UW Board of Trustees voted Friday to extend the mask policy, as Albany County remains in the Wyoming Department of Health’s “moderate-high transmission levels” category for COVID-19. As of Thursday, the county had 150 active COVID cases.

“Our mask policy has helped us start our traditional fall semester without a major spike in COVID cases,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We appreciate the willingness of our community members to follow this policy in classrooms, labs and high-traffic areas such as the Wyoming Union so that we can continue with in-person learning and activities.”

There currently are 63 active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees.

The policy will be revisited in subsequent board meetings.

Exceptions to the indoor mask requirement include voluntary public events such as athletics and music, theater and dance performances; voluntary social events; and private, by-invitation events that involve rental and/or use of UW spaces on campus.

For classes where the ability to see speakers’ mouths is essential, faculty members have the ability to seek exceptions to the masking policy.

Employees and students who have legitimate medical reasons to not wear masks can seek exceptions as well.

An additional exception approved by the board is for patrons of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center when participating in recreational activities, sports or fitness, or when a spectator at a voluntary public recreational event. Half Acre patrons will still be required to wear masks when entering and exiting the building, at all customer service desks and in meeting rooms.

UW continues to strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as the reporting of those vaccinations. Those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.

As of Monday, 4,282 UW students reported being vaccinated.

Of 2,877 total benefited employees, 2,191, 76.2%, reported receiving at least one vaccine dose. Adding in non-benefited employees, 3,457 of the total 6,372 staff and faculty members, 54.3 percent, reported receiving at least one dose.

In an anonymous survey at the start of the semester, 88% of employees and 66% of students said they had been vaccinated.

“We would love to see those numbers continue to increase, as vaccinations truly are the best hope for ending this pandemic,” Seidel said. “The vaccines are proven to be highly safe and effective in preventing infection and serious illness, even for the easily transmissible Delta variant.”

UW continues to conduct weekly random-sample testing of 3% of the on-campus population. The test positivity rate of 1.47% last week was down from 2.89% the week before.

The university was the first educational system in the state to require masks for the fall semester. Local school districts, such as Laramie, Albany and Teton counties, across Wyoming have begun implementing mandates as COVID cases continue to rise.

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UW Law Professor: Biden Vaccine Mandate Is Likely Constitutional

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming law professor explained that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers is likely constitutional, but for a particular reason.

Michael Duff, a law professor who focuses on labor law, torts, evidence and workers’ compensation law, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that it was difficult to assess whether or not a vaccine mandate created under an emergency temporary standard is constitutional until the precise language is known.

Biden last week announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested for the illness weekly. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be responsible for levying fines against companies that do not comply with the mandate.

By providing the option for testing or vaccination, Biden’s mandate may meet constitutional muster, Duff said.

“But if employers have the vaccine or testing option, any rule I can imagine will be constitutional,” Duff said. “Without that safety valve there could be a real problem as to what sanction could be imposed on employers who failed to comply with the mandate. The government could be in a bind in such a situation.”

He added that if the sanctions are not significant, employers may not comply with Biden’s mandate. However, if the sanctions are severe, employers may have hearing rights if they have attempted, without success, to require vaccinations among their employees who still refused to be vaccinated.

“Tricky legal issues would surface if employers felt compelled to fire non-cooperating employees,” Duff said. “Though I think the standard will likely be constitutional with the testing safety valve, my suspicion is that whatever the ETS looks like some employers (or groups) will challenge it in court.”

Duff explained that with an emergency temporary standard, OSHA doesn’t have to go through the full rule-making process to implement the new rules.

“Once issued, an ETS becomes effective and OSHA must begin rulemaking for a permanent standard, with the ETS serving as the proposed standard,” he said. “An ETS is valid until superseded by a permanent standard, which OSHA must promulgate within six months of publishing it in the Federal Register.”

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583 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Thursday; 560 Recoveries; 4,339 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming increased by 186 on Thursday from Wednesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received new reports of 560 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 583 new laboratory-confirmed and 163 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,339 active cases on Thursday. 

Thirteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with eight reporting more than 200. Natrona County had 754; Campbell 447; Fremont 402; Laramie 347; Sweetwater 328; Sheridan 281; Uinta 256; Park 207; Lincoln 194; Converse 166; Albany and Teton 150; Carbon 93; Goshen 80; Washakie 76; Big Horn 74; Crook 72; Sublette 61; Hot Springs 54; Johnson 41; Platte 40; Weston had 34, and Niobrara had 32.  

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 83,643 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 78,386 have recovered.

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608 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Wednesday; 88 Recoveries, 4,153 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count increased by 346 from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Wyoming Department of Health received reports Wednedsay of 88 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 608 new laboratory-confirmed and 186 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,153 active cases for Wednesday. 

Twelve counties have more than 100 active cases and eight have more than 200. Natrona County had 726; Laramie 386; Campbell had 376; Fremont 347; Sweetwater 299; Sheridan 271; Uinta 263; Park 201; Lincoln 194; Converse 172; Albany 147; Teton 130; Carbon 89; Goshen 85; Crook 76; Washakie 69; Big Horn 68; Hot Springs 55; Sublette 51; Platte 50; Johnson 41; Weston had 34, while Niobrara reported the fewest active cases, with 23. No county reported zero active cases for Wednesday. 

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 82,897 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 77,826 have recovered.

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Driskill: 90% Chance of Special Session To Combat Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said there is a 90% likelihood that the Legislature will hold a special session to address President Joe Biden’s sweeping national vaccine mandate.

Driskill told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that he envisioned a two- to three-day session where legislators would focus on strategies to fight the president’s mandate which would, in effect, force thousands of Wyoming workers to receive a COVID vaccine or be fired.

“The Legislature has listened closely to the people of Wyoming,” Driskill said.  “We agree with the people that this is egregious overreach by the Biden administration.  It is worthy of whatever the expense is to fight for Wyoming citizens’ rights.”

Driskill said he was with Gov. Mark Gordon when word of the mandate first surfaced last week and it was like a “shot in the gut” when he heard it.

“It was crushing,” he said. “It is massive overreach for the feds to dictate to private business what their employees have to do.”

Biden last week announced that federal employees, health care workers and employees of companies with more than 100 workers would be required to either get the vaccine or be tested for coronavirus weekly. The rules would be enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which could levy fines against companies that fail to comply with the order.

Driskill said legislative leadership began talking immediately about ways to address the mandate.

“Obviously we are going to sue,” Driskill said. “There is no doubt the governor’s going to join in and sue. But suing takes time and we are working up against hard deadlines here.”

Driskill and Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) said all legal and legislative options must be pursued.

“The president’s mandates touched a nerve of opposition across this state,” Dockstader said. “It’s important the Legislature respond to that concern and thoroughly be prepared with methodically prepared legislation.”

Creative Strategies

Driskill said this is where the Legislature could get creative.

Because state law cannot supersede federal law, Driskill said, more outside-the-box strategies could be employed.

One example would be to follow Colorado’s lead and just ignore the feds, he said.

“Colorado ignored federal laws with pot,” he said alluding to Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana despite federal laws.  “We can obviously take a look at that and say we are not going to do it.”

Another interesting strategy, Driskill said, was to use federal COVID funds to pay for federal fines imposed on businesses that don’t follow the mandate.

“It’s obviously COVID-related,” he said.  “We can use those funds to pay the fines for business.”

Driskill said the state could order state OSHA employees to “stand down” and enforce only the rules the state wants enforced.

The state could help employees who are fired for not following the mandate, he said, by paying for unemployment benefits and assisting with finding other jobs.

Because the federal mandate does allow employees to take weekly COVID tests instead of a vaccination, Driskill said the state could reimburse businesses or employees for the costs of rapid tests.

Driskill also said the state could help to “widen the window” for exemptions to the federal law.

“There’s always been a history that you can’t be challenged if you are using a religious exemption,” he said.  “You can’t challenge it.”

“We need to make sure the feds aren’t onerous in denying those exemptions,” he said.

If The Vaccine Works

Driskill said he’s not opposed to vaccinations.  He’s vaccinated himself.

He thinks vaccinated people shouldn’t be threatened by the unvaccinated “if the vaccine works.”

“I get that you can get the shot and get COVID,” he said. “But overwhelmingly, it’s pretty minor and you aren’t likely to die from it.”  

“So we shouldn’t force things on people when if you’ve got a vaccination, you really shouldn’t be threatened,” he said.

As for the session itself, Driskill said it would likely be conducted via video conferencing instead of in-person as the cost savings would be significant.

The governor’s office did not tip its hand on whether or when the governor might call a session although some have speculated he would make an announcement this week.

His spokesman, Michael Pearlman, said the governor has been “in initial discussions with legislative leadership regarding the potential for a special session.”

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371 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 468 Recoveries; 3,807 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count increased by 131 on Tuesday from Monday. 

The Wyoming Department of Health said it received reports of 468 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 371 new laboratory-confirmed and 267 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,807 active cases. 

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases, seven had more than 200. Natrona County led the state in active cases at 652; Laramie had 361; Campbell had 345; Fremont 338; Sweetwater 223; Uinta 275; Sheridan 234; Park 181; Lincoln 167; Converse 155; Teton 130; Albany 119; Carbon 86; Goshen 74; Crook 68; Washakie 60; Big Horn 53; Platte 51; Hot Springs 47; Sublette 40; Johnson 33; Weston had 32, and Niobrara had 23.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 82,463 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 77,738 have recovered.

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39 More Wyoming Deaths Linked To Coronavirus

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The deaths of 39 more Wyoming residents have been linked to the coronavirus, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department said the deaths, which occurred between June and September, brought the COVID-19 fatality toll in the state to 918 since the illness was first detected in the state in March 2020.

The deaths included six Natrona County residents — one woman and five men — in August and September. All six had been hospitalized for treatment of the illness.

Five Uinta County residents, three men and two women, also all hospitalized, died in August and September.

Other victims included an Albany County man who died in July, an Albany County woman who died in June and a Niobrara County man who died in September.

Three Campbell County residents, two women and one man, died in August and September, as did three Converse County residents, two women and one man.

A Crook County man died in August, while three Fremont County residents — two women and one man — died in September.

Two Goshen County women who died in August and September were among the victims, as were two Hot Springs County women who died in September.

A Laramie County man and woman died in August and September, a Park County woman died in August and two Platte County men died in September.

Three Sheridan County men died in August and September, two Sweetwater County men died in August and September and a Weston County man died in August.

The announcement came as state figures showed Wyoming had 3,807 active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, an increase of 131 from Monday.

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1,028 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming on Monday; 1,613 Recoveries; 3,676 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total fell by by 431 over the weekend.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 1,613 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases between Friday and Monday. 

At the same time,

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases on Monday and seven had more than 200.

Natrona County continued to lead the state in active cases with 618; Laramie County had 364; Campbell had 358; Fremont 337; Uinta 276; Sweetwater 272; Sheridan 227; Park 179; Converse 130; Lincoln 126; Teton 118; Albany 112; Carbon 91; Goshen 79; Crook 69; Big Horn 57; Hot Springs 56; Platte 49; Washakie 45; Sublette 34; Johnson 31; Weston had 29, and Niobrara County had 19.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 81,825 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 77,270 have recovered.

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Cheyenne Health Department Offering $100 COVID Vaccine Incentive

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department is offering a new COVID vaccine incentive to help increase Wyoming’s low vaccination numbers as cases continue to rise across the state.

The first 500 people who get their first dose of one of the three available COVID vaccines at the department beginning Monday will be eligible for a $100 gift card.

“Going back to school was expensive. Let us help!” a flyer by the health department said. “Get fully vaccinated and receive a gift card.”

Those who get the vaccine will have to either complete the two-dose series of vaccinations through Pfizer or Moderna or receive the one-shot vaccine made by Johnson and Johnson.

This is the second time the department has offered a vaccine incentive program. Earlier in the summer, it offered tickets to a Cheyenne Frontier Days night concert to a person who got vaccinated.

Just under 36% of the state is fully vaccinated, around 207,800 residents, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. The national average for full vaccination was 54% as of Sunday.

Laramie County’s vaccination numbers are on track with the rest of the state, with around 38% of the county being vaccinated, amounting to 37,725 residents.

The state has received 545,775 doses of the COVID vaccines (267,135 of the Pfizer vaccine, 250,340 of the Moderna vaccine and 28,300 of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine). In total, 446,392 doses have been administered across the state.

As of Friday, Laramie County had 391 active COVID cases. Cheyenne also has a high rate of COVID hospitalizations, with 50 patients hospitalized due to the virus as of Friday, according to the Wyoming hospitalization tracker.

Other businesses and organizations across the state have implemented vaccine incentive programs. For example, Laramie County School District No. 1 officials offered a one-time incentive of $500 to those who are already fully vaccinated or are willing to undergo bi-monthly COVID tests.

The city of Cheyenne and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center have also offered extra paid time off or cash for employees who get vaccinated.

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605 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming on Friday; 730 Recoveries, 4,107 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total increased by 83 on Friday to end the week.

The Wyoming Department of Health received new reports Friday of 730 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 605 new laboratory-confirmed and 208 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,107 active cases for Friday. 

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases and seven had more than 200. Natrona County continued to have the highest number of active cases in the state with 787; Laramie had 391; Campbell 349; Fremont 324; Sweetwater 312; Uinta 295; Sheridan 267; Park 198; Converse 152; Lincoln 151; Teton 125; Albany 107; Carbon 97; Hot Springs 93; Goshen 83; Crook and Washakie 63; Big Horn 55; Platte 51; Sublette 42; Johnson 37; and Weston had 35, and Niobrara had 25.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 80,643 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 75,657 have recovered.

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Harrist Refuses To Sign Off On Torrington Variance Asking For No Masks In Schools

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

State health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist refused to sign off on a Goshen County health variance that tried to get around the local school district’s mask mandate.

Last week, the Goshen County School District, which encompasses Torrington, implemented a mask mandate for students in kindergarten through 12th grade due to rising COVID cases and the children’s inability to be vaccinated against the virus, since only the Pfizer vaccine is available to children 12 and older.

However, when county health officer Ted Church asked for a variance to this order, Harrist refused to sign off on it, saying it was not in the best interest of public health.

“I will not sign this order because the Wyoming Department of Health does not agree that this order is in the best interest of public health nor necessary for the protection of public health,” Harrist told Church in an email provided to Cowboy State Daily by the Wyoming Department of Health. “County public health orders must be entered under the direction and supervision of the Wyoming Department of Health to be in effect.”

Harrist added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wyoming Department of Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all currently recommended that K-12 students and staff wear masks as a transmission prevention measure.

“According to metrics developed both by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wyoming Department of Health, Goshen County is currently experiencing high levels of transmission,” Harrist wrote. “Goshen County’s vaccination rate is 30.75%. We believe in-person instruction is best for students. This proposed action would not support that goal.”

As of Friday, the district had 23 confirmed active cases of the virus and 160 students were in quarantine either due to infection or exposure, according to the district’s COVID dashboard.

“We regularly review and update guidance based on the current state of COVID-19, and will continue to work with school districts, local officials, and other stakeholders to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the health of our children and ensuring that in-person learning takes place to the greatest degree possible,” Harrist concluded.

Goshen is just one of a handful of school districts that have recently implemented mask mandates due to rising COVID cases. Laramie County School District 1, which encompasses Cheyenne and is the largest school district in the state, implemented one this week.

According to the Torrington Telegram, Church will host a public meeting on Friday night at the county fairgrounds to discuss the variance.

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Park County Health Care In Crisis Mode

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The sharp rise in COVID cases in Park County has caused health officials to re-implement crisis procedures.

Ashley Trudo, Marketing Director for Cody Regional Health, says that the organization has implemented the Wyoming Department of Health Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) and initiated their internal Incident Command System (ICS) in response to the large influx of COVID patients.

The increase in summer tourism has put an additional strain on resources, Trudo said.

To make matters worse, she said Montana and surrounding state hospitals have been unable to accept transfers requiring critical care, because those facilities are either at, or over, capacity.

Trudo said the guiding principle of the Crisis Standards of Care is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of persons. The CSC is defined as a “major” change in usual healthcare operations, which can affect the level of care provided made necessary by some pervasive or catastrophic disaster” – in this case, COVID-19.

Dr. Elise Lowe, Hospitalist at Cody Regional Health, said due to this “major” change in health care operations, the organization may have to go to an even more extreme standard of care in order to meet patient needs.

“This could mean double occupancy in our ACU/CCU units,” Lowe said. “We have communicated our situation with the Big Horn Basin Healthcare Coalition, Park County Public Health, the Wyoming Department of Health, and Homeland Security.”  

Elective surgeries are at risk of being canceled depending on staffing availability, bed capacity, and supply chain resources at Cody Regional Health.

Trudo says that only emergent surgeries will be considered moving forward if COVID cases continue to increase as they have over the last several weeks at Cody Regional Health’s Emergency Department, Walk-in Clinic and Acute Care/Critical Care units.

She said this is the main reason the organization has implemented their Incident Command System – a system that was dismantled in the spring when cases fell to almost nonexistent levels.

Keith Ungrund, Chief Clinical Officer at CRH, said people can still count on the local health care system but that the system needs help from the community.

“Please social distance, wear a mask and stay home if you are experiencing COVID symptoms,” he said.

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Cheyenne Parents Vow to Homeschool Their Kids After Mask Mandate

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

After Wednesday’s announcement that Laramie County School District #1 is implementing a mask mandate, many parents vowed to yank their kids out of school.

On the popular Facebook page, “Cheyenne and Wyoming News”, angry parents announced their plans to either homeschool their kids or not follow the mandate.

“Guess who’s children start homeschool again today?! I’m not playing their games. We parents need to get frickin furious!”, commenter Julie Tesh wrote.

I’m talking storming the castle, at the next school board meeting, kinda furious. Nothing changes if we are silent and passive about it,” Tesh said.

Susan Voigt Branson said she would pull her child from school as well stating that “he won’t be muzzled again.”

“He won’t be in school tomorrow and I suspect there will be plenty other absences across the district,” she said.

Although most commenters on the page seemed to be upset with the announcement, there were those who were ok with the mandate.

“Big LOL at all of the adult babies crying about how wearing a piece of fabric over their mouth is somehow infringing on their personal freedoms here,” Ty Cirillo said.

Meanwhile, Alice Saldana said she didn’t like masks personally but didn’t see the problem with the mandate as her kids would rather attend school in-person.

“I’ve noticed that the mask for some kids does act as a reminder to not get too close and to clean their hands,” she said. “It makes them more aware.”

But Jason Hager said that wasn’t the issue. The issue was compliance with authority.

“Because it is conditioning our children to be compliant while their personal rights are being violated. It’s mental conditioning to get them to accept government control over every aspect of their lives,” Hager said.

The mask mandate will be in place until Laramie County leaves the red or orange zones for community transmission of the virus. When this happens, masks will just be recommended, not required.

“Just as we have seen in the community, our district has experienced a rise in positive COVID-19 cases and an increase in student and staff quarantines,” Crespo said. “Since Aug. 18, almost 1,000 students and staff have been quarantined. Currently, more than 420 are in quarantine. Additionally, we have seen more than 180 positive cases since Aug. 18 and currently have more than 90 active positive cases.”

Cheyenne’s hospital CRMC has more than 50 COVID patients as of this week, the highest amount in the state. Laramie County has the second-highest number of active COVID cases, behind Natrona County.

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Cheyenne Schools Implement Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s largest school district has reversed its decision and implemented a mask mandate.

Laramie County School District 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, implemented a mask mandate on Wednesday night after the board of trustees held a special meeting to discuss the issue.

The district requires all students to wear masks when they cannot socially distance 6 feet. There will be mask-free zones and mask breaks in the classroom, however.

Dr. Margaret Crespo, the district’s new superintendent, addressed the mandate in a letter sent out to parents Wednesday night.

“Laramie County remains in the high-risk, “red” category for community transmission based on the total new cases per 100,000 in the past week and the percentage of positive tests,” Crespo said in the letter. “Additionally, Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is at capacity and is using other areas including the emergency room and pediatric floor to house COVID-19 patients.”

CRMC has more than 50 COVID patients as of this week, the highest amount in the state. Laramie County has the second-highest number of active COVID cases, behind Natrona County.

The mask mandate will be in place until Laramie County leaves the red or orange zones for community transmission of the virus. When this happens, masks will just be recommended, not required.

“Just as we have seen in the community, our district has experienced a rise in positive COVID-19 cases and an increase in student and staff quarantines,” Crespo said. “Since Aug. 18, almost 1,000 students and staff have been quarantined. Currently, more than 420 are in quarantine. Additionally, we have seen more than 180 positive cases since Aug. 18 and currently have more than 90 active positive cases.”

According to the district’s COVID dashboard, there have been 162 confirmed cases in the district since Aug. 18, about one week before school started for the fall. As of Tuesday, the district had 12 active staff cases and 61 active student cases.

Of those 162 confirmed cases, more than 130 of them have been in students, almost a completely even split between students in kindergarten through sixth grades (most of whom can’t be vaccinated due to the Pfizer vaccine only being available to children 12 and older) and students in seventh through 12th grades.

Seventeen active COVID cases were confirmed in the district on Tuesday, 14 of which were students.

Other school districts across the state, including Teton, Sheridan, Albany and Goshen counties, have implemented mask mandates in the last two weeks due to rising cases both among their students and across the state.

Discussions about a mask requirement in LCSD1 grew heated during the board of trustees meeting in mid-August, with some people even calling school officials “criminals” and “child abusers.” Some people were even harassed by fellow audience members for supporting a mask requirement.

Gov. Mark Gordon has repeatedly said he will not implement a second statewide mask mandate, saying those decision are better left to local leaders.

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Wyoming House Freedom Caucus Condemns Vaccine Mandates

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of Wyoming Republicans have come out and condemned COVID vaccine mandates stating employers terminating employees for refusal would be discrimination.

The Wyoming House Freedom Caucus, which consists of around 18 to 20 Wyoming House Republicans, condemned vaccine mandates in a statement on Wednesday.

“We do not believe employers should have the authority to require vaccines of employees,” the group said. “We believe each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions as set forth by Article 1, Section 38 of Wyoming Constitution.”

The group said they valued the hardworking American worker, especially those working on the front lines during the pandemic, but feared a temporary collapse in the health care system due to vaccine mandates. They also highlighted potential exemption reasons, such as religion, health and natural immunity.

While some people will acquire an immunity to the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wyoming Department of Health continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

“We raise concern as to whether or not employers are providing informed consent,” the Freedom Caucus said. “Termination of an employee for refusing to take a vaccine should be considered discrimination and unemployment benefits must be awarded through Wyoming Workforce Services.”

They also said they opposed using taxpayer dollars to fund businesses or organizations that enforce vaccine mandates.

Banner Health, one of the largest U.S. health system employers, is requiring its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by November 1 or lose their jobs. The organization announced this mandate in July.

Banner Health operates multiple health care systems in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and clinics in Torrington, Wheatland, Guernsey, Douglas, Worland and more.

No other Wyoming-owned hospitals or health care systems in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, although some, such as Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, have created incentive programs for employees who do get vaccinated.

Banner is implementing the requirement for several reasons, including the rise of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the need to protect its patients and workforce and to prepare for flu season.

Earlier this year, Montana passed a law that does not allow for private employers to require vaccinations.

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441 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Wednesday; 118 Recoveries; 4,168 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s total of active coronavirus cases increased by 684 on Wednesday from Tuesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports Wednesday of 118 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases.

At the same time, the state reported 441 new laboratory-confirmed and 361 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,168 active cases for Wednesday

Thirteen13 counties have more than 100 active cases, with eight having more than 200. Natrona County continued to have the highest number of active cases at 729; Laramie had 446; Campbell had 357; Sweetwater 319; Fremont 303; Uinta 285; Sheridan 254; Park 212; Lincoln 166; Converse 151; Hot Springs 148; Teton 124; Albany 117; Carbon 85; Goshen 83; Washakie 68; Platte 60; Crook 58; Johnson 51; Weston 47; Big Horn 46; Sublette had 36, and Niobrara had 23.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 79,297 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 74,250 have recovered.

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Gordon Allocates $30 Million To Help With Health Care Staffing Issues

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is allocating $30 million in federal funds to provide staffing relief and support for current health care staff and to secure traveling medical staff.

Gordon’s office announced the move on Wednesday, saying this was his way to address staffing challenges at Wyoming health care facilities amidst a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

“Wyoming’s healthcare system and healthcare workers, in every community are feeling the strain of this surge,” Gordon said. “We need to recognize our healthcare workers’ commitment to caring for our neighbors during the pandemic. They are working extra-long hours and at times having to cover for sick colleagues. These are very stressful times for all of us, but particularly those in the healthcare industry. This is a means to thank them and to try to make sure we can keep them on the job.”

The governor has allocated the $20 million to be used by facilities on a discretionary basis to stabilize staffing levels. The funding is available to fill staffing shortages, provide hazard pay, and strengthen recruitment efforts for the state’s existing healthcare workforce.

The additional $10 million will be available to privately-owned Wyoming hospitals and long-term care facilities for traveling medical staff through a contract with the Wyoming Hospital Association.

Nonprofit and county-owned hospitals that have secured their own traveling medical staff will continue to be eligible for 100% reimbursement through FEMA funding.

The governor will pursue additional options to support healthcare providers during the surge, including the utilization of Wyoming National Guard members as needed.

As of Tuesday, Wyoming hospitals reported a total of 230 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, nearly as many as were hospitalized during the peak of the last surge in November.

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Wyoming’s COVID Hospitalizations Nearing November’s Peak

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s COVID hospitalizations is nearing peak numbers, with hospitals across the state treating more than 200 patients.

As of Tuesday, the state had 230 COVID patients, with Cheyenne Regional Medical Center having the most, with 52 patients, according to the Wyoming hospitalization tracker.

CRMC spokeswoman Kathy Baker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wyoming hit its peak of COVID patients on Nov. 30, with 247 patients.

Of the hospital’s 25 available intensive care unit beds, only 10 were left for patients. However, just because someone is in the ICU doesn’t mean they have COVID.

Eighty of Wyoming’s 138 available ICU beds were occupied.

The Wyoming Medical Center in Casper followed with the second-most patients, with 45.

Natrona County actually has the highest number of active COVID cases in the state, with 961, with Laramie County following with 647 cases, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Of Wyoming’s available 260 ventilators, 222 were available. Like with the ICU, just because someone is on a ventilator doesn’t mean they have COVID.

Wyoming public health officials are “very concerned” about the state’s level of COVID-related hospitalizations and the potential impact of care availability in local communities.

“We are very concerned about the level of hospitalizations we have been seeing recently and know high levels of hospitalizations have potential serious impacts on that availability of patient care in our communities,” Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

She did not say what states have reached out to Wyoming hospitals to send patients due to overflow, but did note that Wyoming residents are much more frequently transferred to other states for care.

She added that Wyoming does not have a predetermined number of statewide hospitalizations that would trigger a critical care action like Idaho, which implemented a crisis standard on Monday.

Gov. Mark Gordon has continued to refuse to implement a statewide mask mandate despite rising COVID cases and hospitalizations, saying local governments are the better officials to make that decision. So far, only Teton County has implemented a mask mandate, extending it until Dec. 31 last week.

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Natural Immunity to COVID? CDC Says Unvaxxed People Twice As Likely To Catch Again

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With questions about people acquiring “natural immunity” against COVID-19 following an infection swirling on social media, the Wyoming Department of Health reminded that people can catch the virus a second (or more) time.

“People can and do get COVID-19 more than once,” department spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday, pointing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s frequently asked questions.

A recent study done by the CDC showed that unvaccinated people were twice as likely to be re-infected with COVID than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.

“These data further indicate that COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections,” the CDC said.

The organization recommended the vaccine for people who have already been infected with COVID because research hasn’t yet shown how long a person is protected against the virus after recovering from infection.

A Utah doctor recently explained to a local ABC station that while some patients have inquired about natural immunity, he said it is not a good strategy.

While some people will acquire an immunity to the virus, the CDC and Wyoming Department of Health continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

“The reason for that is natural immunity varies tremendously from person to person depending on age or health conditions, the health of one’s immune system,” Dr. Brandon Webb said. “It also varies tremendously in how long it lasts depending on those similar conditions. Someone who has natural immunity from a year ago or more likely has waning immunity.”

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Cheyenne Schools Now Considering Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In a reverse of a decision made less than one month ago, the board of Wyoming’s largest school district is considering implementing a mask mandate.

Laramie County School District 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, officials will discuss the changing health situation in the county and will consider a potential mask mandate during a special meeting on Wednesday night, not even one month after the board decided to recommend but not require masks.

The board will meet virtually at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the mandate.

As of now, students are recommended to wear masks when they can’t be distanced a certain amount (6 feet during athletics and activities, 4 feet when seated in the lunchroom and 3 feet when in the classroom). They will be required to wear masks while on school buses, which is a federal mandate.

According to the district’s COVID dashboard, there have been 162 confirmed cases in the district since Aug. 18, about one week before school started for the fall. As of Tuesday, the district had 12 active staff cases and 61 active student cases.

Of those 162 confirmed cases, more than 130 of them have been in students, almost a completely even split between students in kindergarten through sixth grades (most of whom can’t be vaccinated due to the Pfizer vaccine only being available to children 12 and older) and students in seventh through 12th grades.

Seventeen active COVID cases were confirmed in the district on Tuesday, 14 of which were students.

As of Tuesday, Laramie County had 647 active COVID cases, second only to Natrona County’s 961 cases, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. Only about 38% of the county had been vaccinated, a total of 37,725 residents.

Cheyenne also had the most COVID hospitalizations, with 40 patients at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center as of Friday, according to the state hospitalization tracker.

Other school districts across the state, including Teton, Sheridan, Albany and Goshen counties, have implemented mask mandates in the last two weeks due to rising cases both among their students and across the state.

Discussions about a mask requirement in LCSD1 grew heated during the board of trustees meeting in mid-August, with some people even calling school officials “criminals” and “child abusers.” Some people were even harassed by fellow audience members for supporting a mask requirement.

Gov. Mark Gordon has repeatedly said he will not implement a second statewide mask mandate, saying those decision are better left to local leaders.

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1,011 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming, 1,889 Recoveries; 3,484 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming decreased by 621 on Tuesday from Friday. 

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 1,889 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases over the long holiday weekend.. 

At the same time,

Twelve counties have more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200. Natrona County continues to have the highest number of active cases in the state at 591 as of Tuesday; Laramie had 364; Campbell had 310; Uinta 290; Sweetwater 278; Fremont 265; Park 189; Hot Springs 140; Lincoln 131; Teton 129; Sheridan 117; Converse 109; Albany 87; Carbon 77; Goshen 72; Platte 57; Big Horn 54; Washakie 51; Crook 48; Johnson 43; Weston 40; Sublette had 33, while Niobrara had 18.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 78,495 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 74,132 have recovered.

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Another 21 Deaths Tied To COVID; Wyoming Now Has 879

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming residents whose deaths have been tied to the coronavirus has climbed to 879, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department announced the deaths of another 21 Wyoming residents in August and early September.

Victims included three Fremont County residents, two women and one man, three Campbell County residents, two women and one man, and three Park County residents, two men and one woman.

Other victims included two Albany County men, two Carbon County men, one Converse County man, two Laramie County women, a Natrona County man, a Sheridan County woman, two Sweetwater County men and a Uinta County woman.

The announcement of the deaths came as the department’s numbers showed a decline of 621 in active coronavirus cases in Wyoming.

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Wyoming Dept Of Health Worried About Impact Of COVID Hospitalizations

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming public health officials are “very concerned” about the state’s level of COVID-related hospitalizations and the potential impact of care availability in local communities.

Neighboring states, such as Idaho, are hitting critical care levels in recent days, meaning that there are more COVID patients than some of their hospitals can handle.

“We are very concerned about the level of hospitalizations we have been seeing recently and know high levels of hospitalizations have potential serious impacts on that availability of patient care in our communities,” Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

She did not say what states have reached out to Wyoming hospitals to send patients due to overflow, but did note that Wyoming residents are much more frequently transferred to other states for care.

She added that Wyoming does not have a predetermined number of statewide hospitalizations that would trigger a critical care action like Idaho, which implemented a crisis standard on Monday.

Idaho health officials warned residents that they may not get the care they would normally expect if they need to be hospitalized, according to ABC News. The move allows hospitals to allot scarce resources like intensive care unit rooms to patients most likely to survive.

As of Friday, Wyoming had 189 COVID patients hospitalized across the state, according to Wyoming’s hospitalization tracker.

But only 54 intensive care unit beds were available, less than half of what Wyoming normally has. The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center had the most COVID patients, with 40, and the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper followed with 38 patients.

“We continue to encourage people to get a free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines if they haven’t already,” Deti told Cowboy State Daily. “Our other primary recommendations include staying home when ill unless seeking medical attention, common-sense physical distancing and wearing masks in indoor public settings.”

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Bouchard, Health Care Workers Protest Banner Health’s Vaccine Mandate In Worland

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard joined health care workers in Worland on Monday to protest a vaccine mandate issued by Banner Health, a health care company which has a facility in the community.

Protestors held signs which read “Coercion is not consent” and “Freedom not force” and featured comments by Bouchard, who is also running for U.S. Congress.

“It was great to stand with the patriots in protest of Banner Health’s ‘Jab or else’ policy in [Worland],” Bouchard wrote on his Facebook page. “The healthcare industrial complex needs to get out of WY! I hear other hospitals are recruiting. This could be a big loss for the community if they force it on the employees.”

Banner Health, one of the largest U.S. health system employers, is requiring its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by November 1 or lose their jobs. The organization announced this mandate in July.

Dr. Ronald Burinsky, a physician from Basin, Wyoming, supported the Labor Day protest and legislation to thwart the requirement.

“Pass the law, like in Montana, to make mandatory vaccines and other mandates illegal,” Burinsky wrote on Bouchard’s page.

Earlier this year, Montana passed a law — which was widely condemned by the medical community — that does not allow for private employers to require vaccinations.

“This is against everything we’ve ever known or believed about public health,” Dr. Pamela Cutler, president of the Montana Medical Association, told the Associated Press. “I believe it’s a travesty now and it needs to be fixed so that we can make our offices safe for patients and our coworkers.”

Banner Health operates multiple health care systems in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and clinics in Torrington, Wheatland, Guernsey, Douglas, Worland and more.

No other Wyoming-owned hospitals or health care systems in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, although some, such as Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, have created incentive programs for employees who do get vaccinated.

Banner is implementing the requirement for several reasons, including the rise of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the need to protect its patients and workforce and to prepare for flu season.

In July, Banner launched an incentive program for employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a lottery that saw 10 vaccinated employees receive $10,000 each.

Banner has also provided its employees with pay for time away to get vaccinated, mileage reimbursement and points toward its wellness program that offers discounts on health insurance.

Banner Health employs roughly 52,000 people throughout the U.S., operating in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.

Bouchard has been a proponent of alternative methods of combating the virus, such as encouraging the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, neither of which are recommended for use against COVID by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the use of ivermectin has been touted by some popular figures, including podcast superstar Joe Rogan — who the New York Times recently called “too big to cancel.”

Rogan, who signed a $100 million podcasting contract last year with Spotify, recently announced he has recovered from COVID and credits usage of ivermectin, a deworming veterinary drug used on cows and horses but is also prescribed to target parasitic infections in humans.

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512 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming; 656 Recoveries; 4,105 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total declined by 52 on Friday to end the week.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 656 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 512 new laboratory-confirmed and 92 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,105 active cases on Friday. 

14 counties had more than100 active cases, with seven having more than 200. Natrona County continued to have the highest number of active cases at 664; Laramie had 424; Campbell 358; Sweetwater 328; Fremont 295; Uinta 267; Sheridan 207; Hot Springs and Lincoln 176; Park 174; Teton 159; Converse 135; Albany 116; Platte 100; Goshen 88; Carbon 86; Johnson 80; Washakie 71; Crook 45; Sublette 44; Big Horn 43; Weston had 41, while Niobrara had the lease number of active cases, with 28. No county reported zero active cases for Friday.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 77,206 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 72,243 have recovered.

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Wyoming’s COVID Hospitalizations Now More Than 200

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s COVID-related hospitalizations have reached more than 200, the first time the state has seen these numbers since early December.

The state had 203 COVID patients hospitalized across the state as of Thursday, according to the state’s hospitalization tracker.

“It’s really bad right now,” Wyoming Hospital Association President Eric Boley told Cowboy State Daily last week. “Our numbers are looking worse day by day and there’s more concern now that schools are going back, that we’ll see a surge of pediatric patients.”

The most patients were at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, with 46. This was followed by the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, with 44 patients.

Four hospitals’ intensive care units are completely full: Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Cody Regional Hospital, Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie and SageWest Health Care in Lander. However, just because a person is in the ICU does not mean they are a COVID patient.

Of the state’s available 137 ICU beds, only 57 in Wyoming are open.

Despite the high COVID hospitalizations, only 30 ventilators are in use across the state. But like with the ICU, just because a patient is on a ventilator doesn’t mean they are a COVID patient.

Hospitalized COVID patients have steadily increased through the month of August, going from 75 on Aug. 5 to 194 by Tuesday, the end of the month.

The seven-day COVID positivity rate has decline somewhat in recent days, decreasing from 23% earlier this week to 20.7% as of Thursday.

Wyoming hit peak hospitalizations in late November, with 247 patients.

Wyoming has seen 858 deaths related to the virus.

Earlier this week, the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County has canceled all of its elective surgeries until further notice due to an “overwhelming” influx of coronavirus patients.

“The best solution is for folks to get vaccinated,” Boley said. “We’re facing some real challenges, so wearing masks, washing your hands and social distancing will help. There’s a lot skepticism in our state about the solutions, but the truth is, COVID is right on our doorstep. Our hospitals and nursing homes are doing all they can, but we really need the public to help us out.”

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Teton County Extends Mask Mandate Until Dec. 31

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Teton County’s mask mandate has been extended until the end of the year by Teton County commissioners.

The Teton County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to extend the mandate until Dec. 31.

The action follows a decision by Jackson’s Town Council earlier this week to extend the mandate until Dec. 31 as well.

The order requires people to wear masks inside any business or government facility open to the public, health care facilities or while riding on public transportation. This mandate will also extend to K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, requiring all students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear masks.

There are exceptions to the order, including if a person has a medical condition that would affect their breathing by wearing a mask.

The order doesn’t mandate mask usage in any outdoor situations.

As of Wednesday, Teton County had 166 active COVID cases.

This is the first of Wyoming’s 23 counties to implement a new mask order since the statewide mask mandate expired in mid-March. Teton County kept its mask order in place longer than any other county in the state, letting it expire in early May.

Other counties have discussed, or implemented, school district mask mandates, but no mandates have been adopted for other cities or counties.

Late last week, the Carbon County Republican Party called the county’s mandate “unconstitutional.”

“Will you comply with another unconstitutional mask mandate or illegal shutdown of select ‘unessential work-a-day’ private businesses? Let us know where you stand Wyoming, and be prepared to STAND UP!” the party wrote on Facebook.

Gov. Mark Gordon has steadfastly refused to implement a second statewide mandate for the use of facemasks and he told a Jackson audience Tuesday he feels it is better to let local governments, rather than his administration, make decisions regarding how their communities should handle the the pandemic.

“We don’t believe that mandates from on high work,” he said. “We do think local control, local government is where the nexus lies. Those are locally-elected people, they’re your communities. They can appreciate the circumstances at a local level in a way that we find from on top can’t happen.”

Gordon said that while he respected Wyoming residents’ freedom to choose, he also said residents know what they need to do to slow the spread of the virus — wash their hands, wear facemasks and practice social distancing.

“In this environment, I think it is extremely important that we recognize we are a community and what we do together can be very successful in defeating the virus,” he said.

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455 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Thursday; 591 Recoveries; 4,157 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total increased by four on Thursday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 591 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Thursday. 

At the same time, the state reported 455 new laboratory-confirmed and 140 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,157 active cases on Thursday. 

Fourteen counties have more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than 200. Natrona County had 731; Laramie 448; Campbell had 341; Fremont 297; Sweetwater 290; Uinta 270; Sheridan 236; Lincoln 175; Teton 164; Park 158; Albany 154; Converse 144; Hot Springs 143; Platte 100; Carbon 97; Goshen 83; Johnson 79; Washakie 66; Crook and Weston 40; Big Horn 38; Sublette had 37, 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, 2020, 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 new confirmed and probable cases brought to 76,602 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 71,587 have recovered.

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Eastern Wyoming College’s Cosmetology, Barber Depts Close Due To COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington has temporarily closed its cosmetology and barbering departments to the public due because the students and staff in the departments have been exposed to the coronavirus, the college announced Thursday.

The departments have canceled all appointments through Sept. 10, with plans to resume on Sept. 13. The departments offer esthetician services such as haircuts, shampoos, hair coloring and even manicure and pedicures.

This news comes just a few days after the college was forced to cancel four volleyball games scheduled for this weekend due to players either being infected with the virus or in quarantine due to exposure.

On Monday, the campus had five active cases, but Goshen County as of Thursday had 83 active cases.

While EWC does not require the use of facemasks, it is recommending that students who have not received the coronavirus vaccine wear face coverings while on campus.

Meanwhile, the board of directors for Goshen County School District No. 1 was to meet Thursday evening to discuss adopting a mask mandate for Torrington students in grades K-12.

Schools across Wyoming are working to set facemask policies as the state’s infection rate continues to climb. Over the weekend, the state saw more than 1,000 new laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus and by Thursday, the state had more than 4,100 active cases.

The debate has been vigorous in some communities, with Cheyenne schools deciding against a mandate after several lengthy meetings that saw constituents arguing with school board members. So far, only schools in Jackson, Laramie and Sheridan have adopted mask mandates, although schools in Hot Springs County have turned to virtual classes to prevent the spread of the illness.

Of all of Wyoming’s higher learning systems, only the University of Wyoming has chosen to implement a mask mandate, which is set to expire later this month.

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