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91 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; At 1,299 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming declined slightly Tuesday as the state recorded 146 recoveries from the illness.

Figures from the Wyoming Department of Health’s daily coronavirus update showed that the number of active cases went down by five on Tuesday to total 1,299.

The recoveries offset the report of 91 new confirmed cases and 50 new probable cases around the state.

As of Tuesday, Albany County had 238 active cases; Natrona had 164; Laramie had 144; Fremont had 124; Sheridan had 89; Campbell had 84; Lincoln had 78; Converse and Park had 51; Teton had 49; Goshen had 37; Sweetwater had 36; Carbon had 30; Big Horn had 28; Sublette had 24; Platte had 20; Uinta had 14; Weston had 13; Crook had 11; Johnson had seven; Washakie had six, and Hot Springs had one.

Niobrara County was the only county in the state with no active cases.

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

The Health Department said 18 counties reported 91 new laboratory-confirmed cases Tuesday, with Laramie County seeing the largest increase in cases at 17.The increase brings to 5,751 the number of confirmed cases seen since the illness was first detected in March.

The number of probable cases, those where patients have coronavirus symptoms and have been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case but have not been tested for the illness, increased by 50 on Tuesday to total 1,019 since the pandemic began.

Total recoveries since March went up to 5,418 among those with confirmed or probable cases with the 146 recoveries reported Tuesday.

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Gordon Asks Wyo National Guard To Assist In COVID Contact Tracing

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Members of the Wyoming National Guard will be assisting the Wyoming Department of Health in its efforts to collect information about people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Monday that in the face of recent rapid increases in coronavirus cases in the state, the Guard was asked to help the Health Department with “contact tracing” for the next 30 days.

Rusty Ridley, a spokesman for the Wyoming Military Department, said 20 members of the Wyoming Army National Guard and Wyoming Air National Guard would help interview people who have been diagnosed with a confirmed case of coronavirus to see who they may have been in contact with.

“Their primary responsibility will be calling Wyoming residents who test positive for COVID,” he said. “They’ll be employed the same way as the team at the Health Department, it’s just a matter of personnel and providing assistance.”

In the last 10 days, the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming has gone up by more than 360.

The sudden increase has left the state Health Department and county health departments needing help as they try to determine who coronavirus patients have been in contact with, said Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the state Health Department.

“The temporary additional support for us and for our local county partners will help and is welcome,” she said.

Ridley said the Guard members would be issued laptop computers by the Health Department to record the information they collect. That information will be used to update the data the Health Department keeps on the spread of the coronavirus, he said.

He added that the Guard members would be working at different locations around the state to collect the information.

Deti said the 30-day length of the Guard’s assistance can be extended if needed.

“But, at this time, we aren’t sure that will be necessary,” she said. “Again, this is intended as some temporary help.”

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Wyoming Moves From 4th to 7th State With Fewest Coronavirus Restrictions

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has moved down two spots in a ranking of states that have the fewest coronavirus restrictions in the nation, coming in at No. 7.

This was according to personal finance website WalletHub, which does a monthly ranking of the states and their respective coronavirus-related restrictions.

In September, Wyoming was in fifth place, down from being tied fourth with Idaho in August.

October’s lower rating comes despite the fact that no new restrictions have been imposted by state officials to prevent the spread of the coronavirus since the last poll was conducted. In fact, at the end of September, Gov. Mark Gordon announced the state would lift seating restrictions on the state’s restaurants to allow them to return to full capacity operation.

The study noted that in addition being among the states with the fewest restrictions, Wyoming also has one of the lowest coronavirus death counts.

Wisconsin is at number six for restrictions and Missouri is following Wyoming at number eight in the ranking.

South Dakota again ranked first, with the fewest restrictions in the nation.

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

California and Hawaii were the lowest ranking states, respectively, meaning that they have the most coronavirus restrictions in the nation.

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Wyoming Department Of Health To Offer At-Home Do-It-Yourself COVID Tests

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health will soon offer free, at-home saliva coronavirus tests, state public health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist announced during a news conference on Monday.

She said that the WDH recently signed a contract that would allow the department to offer the free tests for the general public, as well as permit the department to partner with businesses and organizations to offer workplace saliva tests.

“This unique testing service includes online supervision of the sample collection process,” she said. “It’s a new option that adds to the choices available for testing in Wyoming for our residents.”

Next, Harrist said that the state would receive 170,000 rapid coronavirus tests between now and December as part of the distribution of 150 million tests that will be given out across the country from the federal government.

Harrist didn’t give an exact date on when either the saliva or tests would be available, adding more information would be available soon.

Both Harrist and Gov. Gordon said the rapid growth in cases is putting a strain on the state’s hospitals. As of Monday, 36 coronavirus patients are in Wyoming hospitals, the highest number seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March.

“A big and very real worry is for the hospitals to be pushed beyond their limits,” Harrist said. “It is important to remember that many of Wyoming’s hospitals are small, with a limited number of beds for the most seriously ill patients.”

Harrist noted that no restrictions are in place for most activities in the state, now, but urged residents to take the proper precautions as they engage in activities.

“Everything is open in Wyoming right now,” she said. “There’s nothing you can’t do. The key is to be able to do them safely. Take those relatively simple precautions.”

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Wyoming’s Irma Hotel Restaurant and Bar Closed by COVID

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The Irma Hotel is an icon in Cody – the property was built by Buffalo Bill himself in 1902, before the town was even incorporated.

It houses a cherrywood bar that was a gift to Colonel Cody from Queen Victoria, and is a must-see on the list of tourist attractions in a town known for its western history.

But this week the restaurant and bar has been closed down, because of a cluster of positive cases discovered in a routine test of employees – although most of them were asymptomatic.

And Bill Crampton, the Public Health Nursing Supervisor in Park County, says the restaurant is one of several in the county that closed its doors voluntarily this summer due to the virus.

“The Irma would be the… 1,2,3… fourth, I think, that chose to shut down,” he estimates. “Everyone else has been, you know, just motoring along, some of them wearing masks, and some of them not.”

Park County has had a surge in positive cases in the last week – and medical services have responded by making sure that people know that tests are available. Cody Regional Health released a statement this week reminding residents that they are still offering drive-through testing two days a week.

In addition to the increase in positive tests, the County has been relying on wastewater based epidemiology to monitor the presence of the virus.

According to the Park County Health Officer, the percentage of people using the Cody municipal sewage system that are shedding the COVID virus has increased from 1.7% to 2.0% – that’s about 500 people estimated to be carrying the coronavirus, including people who have recently recovered.

And Crampton says the increase is having an impact on their available resources.

 “The contact tracers are starting to get overwhelmed – the state contact tracers are starting to get overwhelmed.”

But Crampton adds that the surge is happening amid a push by residents to relax measures – in fact, Governor Mark Gordon this week announced relaxed restrictions on spaced-out seating in restaurants, and Crampton notes that a movement by “anti-maskers” is gaining momentum across the state.

But health officials continue to urge caution and remind people to take the best care to avoid spreading the virus to those who are at the most risk. 

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Wyoming’s Economy At Risk Because Of Rising COVID Numbers, Gordon Says

in Coronavirus/Mark Gordon/News
6699

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is backsliding on taking the action needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and if the number of cases seen in the state continues to grow, the state’s economy could suffer, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.

Gordon, during his regular press briefing, said if the state continued its pace of seeing 98 new laboratory-confirmed cases per day, people would stop leaving their homes and contributing to economic growth.

“Here in Wyoming our diligence seemed to slide a little bit,” he said. “Now we have some very serious deterioration in conditions. That means fewer people are going to feel safe going out for supper, going to the store. That will slow our economic recovery. We need exactly the opposite to happen. We need people to feel comfortable going out.”

He added that the number of cases has grown so quickly — with 1,304 active cases recorded Monday — that he has directed the Wyoming National Guard to help the Wyoming Department of Health conduct contact tracing to track those who have been in contact with people who have the coronavirus. The Guard will help the department for 30 days, Gordon said.

Gordon did not say that more stringent public health orders might be restored if the state’s coronavirus cases continued to grow.

However, he did note that the state has relaxed most of its limits on activity, hoping Wyoming residents would continue to practice the steps recommended to stop the spread of coronavirus, such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands and wearing face masks when social distancing is not possible.

If those precautions are not followed, the state’s economy will go backward, he said.

Both Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said the rapid growth in cases is putting a strain on the state’s hospitals. As of Monday, 36 coronavirus patients are in Wyoming hospitals, the highest number seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March.

“A big and very real worry is for the hospitals to be pushed beyond their limits,” Harrist said. “It is important to remember that many of Wyoming’s hospitals are small, with a limited number of beds for the most seriously ill patients.”

Harrist noted that no restrictions are in place for most activities in the state, now, but urged residents to take the proper precautions as they engage in activities.

“Everything is open in Wyoming right now,” she said. “There’s nothing you can’t do. The key is to be able to do them safely. Take those relatively simple precautions.”

Harrist also announced that the state has signed a contract with a private company to provide at-home coronavirus testing kits.

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114 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 1,304 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming went up by 13 on Monday as the number of recoveries offset the number of new cases.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said 114 new confirmed cases were reported in 20 counties on Monday, along with 11 new probable cases.

At the same time, however, the number of recoveries seen since the pandemic reached Wyoming grew by 112.

The end result was the state has 1,304 people still sick with the coronavirus.

Albany County had 265 active cases; Natrona had 169; Laramie had 134; Fremont had 117; Campbell had 91; Sheridan had 78; Lincoln had 74; Park had 58; Teton had 52; Converse had 44; Goshen had 35; Sweetwater had 31; Carbon had 29; Big Horn had 25; Sublette had 22; Platte had 20; Uinta had 18; Weston had 16; Washakie had nine; Crook had eight; Johnson had seven, and Hot Springs and Niobrara had one.

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

The department said all but three of the state’s counties reported new laboratory-confirmed cases Monday, with Albany County recording the largest case number increase at 22.

Only Crook, Hot Springs and Johnson had no new cases.

As of Monday, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March was set at 5,660.The number of probable cases increased by 11 Monday to total 969 since the pandemic began.

At the same time, the number of people to have recovered from both confirmed and probable cases since mid-March went up by 112 on Monday to total 5,272.

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UW Could Close For Semester If COVID Cases Don’t Subside, President Says

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming
6693

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

University of Wyoming president Ed Seidel is warning students that if coronavirus cases continue to rise among university students and staff, in-person classes may end early for the semester.

“Simply stated, we all need to take action to keep a handle on the spread of COVID-19 among, primarily, our students,” Seidel said in an email to university students. “And if the case numbers continue rising at the current rate, we may have no choice but to bring an early end to on-campus instruction.”

The number of active coronavirus cases in Albany County is the highest in the state and a number of those cases are found among members of the university community.

According to the email from Seidel, the active cases among UW students and employees stood at 164 as of Friday, including 127 students living off-campus, 32 students living on-campus and five employees living off-campus. As of Sunday, Albany County had a total of 264 active cases.

Last week, the university’s wrestling team saw an outbreak of cases, as did the UW’s football team, where 11 freshman players tested positive for the illness.

Seidel noted that the active cases are surging high enough that the university’s quarantine housing is almost at capacity.

“While 31 were to be moved from ‘active’ to ‘recovered’ during the day, we have hit several of the thresholds in the set of indicators we’re using to monitor the virus, including increases in the seven-day rolling average of total cases, total cases per day over two consecutive days and the number of new symptomatic cases per day,” Seidel wrote.

Over the last couple weeks, the university has taken targeted steps to address infection clusters among certain student groups, which Seidel said seem to be working.

However, new infection clusters are popping up at apartment complexes both off campus and in campus housing.

“It’s clear there is significant community spread across the Laramie community,” the president said.

In another week or so, all university students will be required to submit to surveillance testing in a move aimed at preventing the spread of the illness. The tests used will use a technology that allows for a rapid reporting of results, Seidel said.

Students who live off-campus who haven’t submitted to a coronavirus test will not be allowed to attend in-person classes, use in-person student services or participate in activities unless and until they take a coronavirus test.

They can only return to campus beginning Oct. 12 and that’s only with a negative test result, Seidel said.

Under UW’s current testing program, all undergraduates on campus are supposed to be tested weekly, along with most faculty and staff members working on campus.

“This may seem to be a harsh action, but it really is not, when you consider what is at stake,” Seidel wrote. “Many of us were excited to learn about our plans to start UW’s football season Oct. 24…and to have an in-person experience, albeit different from most fall semesters, until Thanksgiving week.

“All of that is in jeopardy unless we change our trajectory, and change it quickly,” he added.

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Yellowstone Sees Surge In Employee Coronavirus Cases Over September

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After seeing only four positive coronavirus cases all summer, Yellowstone National Park employees have seen an uptick in positive virus cases over the last month.

In September, 16 Yellowstone employees, 0.8% of the entire personnel at the park, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an announcement from the park.

This includes seven National Park Service employees and nine concession workers. Eight of the 16 individuals have recovered and the other eight are in recovery.

All employees who have tested positive have been isolated per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and county public health guidelines.

In partnership with Montana and Wyoming, the park has substantially increased employee surveillance testing and has conducted more than 1,100 tests since the first week of September. More than 3,000 tests have been conducted since the park reopened in May.  

Contact tracing has occurred with the assistance of Park County, Montana and Park County, Wyoming.  

The park only had four positive employee cases between May 18 and Aug. 30.

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131 New Coronavirus Cases in Wyoming; 1,291 Active

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

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

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count continued moving up Sunday as every county but three reported new confirmed cases.

Figures from the Wyoming Department of Health’s daily coronavirus update showed the number of active coronavirus cases was 1,291 on Sunday, an increase of 62 over Saturday’s figures.

The increase is due to the reporting of 131 new confirmed cases in 20 counties, along with eight new probable cases and 77 recoveries in the last 24 hours.

Albany County had 264 active cases; Natrona had 171; Laramie had 120; Fremont had 118; Campbell had 101; Lincoln and Sheridan had 75; Teton had 61; Park had 56; Converse had 44; Goshen had 31; Sweetwater had 30; Sublette had 27; Carbon had 26; Big Horn had 22; Platte had 17; Uinta and Weston had 14; Crook had 10; Johnson and Washakie had seven, and Hot Springs had one.

Niobrara County remained the only one in the state with no active cases.

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

The department’s figures showed only Hot Springs, Johnson and Niobrara counties reported no new confirmed cases Sunday. The state’s other 20 counties reported 131 new confirmed cases, with Albany County continuing to see the highest number at 28.

The growth in confirmed cases pushed the number diagnosed since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March to 5,546.

The number of probable cases increased by eight Sunday to total 958 since the pandemic began. A probable case is one where a patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case but has not been tested for the illness.

The increase in recoveries by 77 Sunday brought the total number of people to recover from the illness since mid-March to 5,160.

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