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Park County Health Officer: “No Hospital Visits is Encouraging Sign”

in Coronavirus/News

UPDATE FROM THE PARK COUNTY WY HEALTH OFFICER – Tonight there are 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming and 1 case…

Posted by Aaron Billin on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Public Health Officer for Park County on Tuesday offered up some good news.

Aaron Billin, Public Health Officer for Park County, said that Park County is the only infected county in the state to go seven days without the first case turning into a “cluster.”

Park County has one confirmed case of COVID-19, as of Tuesday morning, and that individual is quarantined at home — another good sign according to Billin.

“The fact that we have no confirmed cases sick enough to be in the hospital is encouraging,” he wrote.

Billin’s optimism was tempered, however. He said inadequate testing doesn’t present a full picture.

“This doesn’t mean we don’t have other unidentified cases in the County,” he said. “We believe we do, we just haven’t diagnosed them yet. We wish testing was not as limited as it is. The Wyoming Department of Health is working on this.”

4,000 People Attend Online Coronavirus Town Hall in Gillette

in Coronavirus/News

Reprinted with permission from County 17

By Stephanie Scarcliff & Jen Kocher

Nearly 4,000 viewers tuned in Sunday evening to watch as a handful of local leaders in government, education, public health and the medical field addressed community-wide concerns regarding Gillette and Campbell County’s immediate and ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Amongst the topics discussed during the one-hour live-streaming broadcast at the New Life Church were the silver lining of a community and nation-wide unification, and an emphasis on placing a focus on optimism, togetherness and loving our neighbors during this challenging time.

D.G. Reardon, chairman of the Campbell County Board of Commissioners, began the discussion with opening remarks about the gravity of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a very serious situation that we need to get a handle on,” he said, stressing that the community adhere to CDC and public health guidelines and recommendations including social distancing and handwashing. He also asked that people check on their neighbors, be thoughtful, kind and patient.

As of Monday morning, 26 people in Wyoming have tested positive for COVID-19 across seven counties, including one in Campbell County. Over the weekend, four more people had tested positive as the number slowly continues to rise.

Flattening the curve

Dr. Nahida Khan, geriatrics and internal medicine at Campbell County Health (CCH), began by sharing some information about the coronavirus including its origin and epidemiology. “There’s a lot of information we’re learning every day,” she said. “It’s a learning process… but there’s still a lot that we don’t know yet.”

In addition to stressing how information is ever evolving as medical professionals observe other countries and states as well as learn more about the new strain of virus, Dr. Khan eloquently encouraged the community.

“No one likes change. It creates anxiety, fear,” she said, noting information is continuously changing right now and the public needs to be aware that information and recommendations can and will continue to develop and change. She said the best way for the community to flatten the curve is through patience and kindness and discipline.

“By the grace of God and following the recommendations, this too shall pass,” she said.

More dangerous than the flu

More than 200 people sent in questions prior to the town hall to be answered by the panel. Of these, moderator and New Life Lead Pastor Mike Wilson chose 26 to be addressed.

Several people drew comparisons to the flu and wondered why we, as a community, are taking COVID-19 so much more seriously given that roughly 60,000 people die each year from the flu compared just over 400 coronavirus deaths so far in the United States.

The two viruses are actually very different, Chief Medical Officer and Urologist at Campbell County Health Dr. Attila Barabas explained, despite the commonality of symptoms.

“That’s where the similarities end,” Barabas said. Not only is COVID-19 much more contagious, he explained, it’s also much more deadly. The facts speak for themselves, he said: Only 1% of people with the flu are hospitalized compared to 20% of those with coronavirus. Unlike the flu, there is also no treatment.

“The health sector is equipped to handle the flu,” he added, “but this is something entirely new.”

Right now, they are learning as they go, he noted, and are erring on the side of caution based on what they do know. And given its high rate of contagion, social isolating and quarantine are good tactics to employ in order to help stop the spread.

Do we have enough tests?

One of the largest concerns voiced by the community, Wilson said, was whether the county has enough tests amongst growing fears on social media about the number of infected undiagnosed people throughout the county going untreated as well as several horror stories from people who showed symptoms but were denied the test.

“It is a limited resource, so we do have to choose who gets tested,” Barabas said. “That involves a strict criterion that has been given to us by the CDC and allows us to focus the tests on patients who are truly high risk – those patients that will truly make a clinical difference. As long as we use those criteria, we do have an appropriate number of tests at this moment.”

If they stick to these guidelines, he stressed, then they’ll have an “appropriate number” of tests on hand.

They also are confident they have enough hospital beds and other resources if people continue to remain diligent and practice social isolation. The key, he said, is prevention.

“Otherwise, we’ll have to reach outside the community for additional resources,” Barabas said.

Experiencing symptoms?

The panel also addressed what steps would be taken if members of the public see or experience symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, tiredness or difficulty breathing.

From what they know of the virus thus far, Khan said, the virus takes anywhere from three to 14 days to manifest.

“Fourteen seems to be the magic number,” she said.

And though there is currently no treatment for COVID-19, the virus seems to respond to Tylenol, which Kahn said is safe to take.

The first step, she noted, is to contact a healthcare provider, so they can triage symptoms and make the appropriate recommendations for the patient to be tested, if needed.

If a person doesn’t have a local healthcare provider, they are instructed to call the hospital hot line.

“The hospital has set up a phone line that is manned from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (307) 688-1000 is the phone number,” said Dr. Kirtikumar Patel, Campbell County Public Health officer and former internal medicine specialist at CCH. “If there is any reason for people to believe that they have been exposed or that they do have it (COVID-19), recommendations from Public Health’s point of view are to please try and self-quarantine yourself until the symptoms improve because testing is still very limited.”

If a person tests positive, in most cases they’ll be quarantined in their home unless the case is severe enough to be hospitalized. That person should be quarantined away from other family members, preferably in a separate part of the house with their own bathroom, Executive Director of Campbell County Public Health Jane Glaser said. During quarantine, someone from public health will call to check in on them twice a day. Other family members will also be tested. To have the quarantine lifted, the patient must get a clean bill of health from their doctor, as well as a letter from the Wyoming Department of Health.

Are we overreacting?

Another reoccurring question for the panel was whether Governor Gordon made a good call in shutting down local restaurants, businesses, bars, city offices and other public spaces, or if we’re overreacting with calls to self isolate and avoid crowds greater than 10 people, the latest mandate from the Governor.

Wilson asked the panel about the likelihood of the community coming together to practice social distancing for the CDC- recommended 15 days to which the panel overwhelming answered yes.

Self-quarantine seems to be working, Reardon said, and the key is to continue to try to flatten the curve. Thus far, he thinks that residents have done a pretty good job but thinks we can do even better.

When asked if the threat of the virus will extend beyond 14 days, Barabas nodded.

“This is likely to last for months, not weeks. I believe this will be the new normal for the foreseeable future to come,” he said. “One of the things that we learned in the 1918 flu pandemic, in Denver for example, was they restricted their social contacts and that resulted in a lower mortality (rate) and as that mortality (rate) was going down they said, ‘Hey, we’re doing well. Let’s let off of the gas,’ so to speak, and things got significantly worse again.”

Stay informed

Ivy Castleberry, information coordinator for Campbell County encouraged the public to arm themselves with information. “Good, clear communication is key to helping relieve some of the anxiety that the public is feeling as well as keeping them up to date as those changes do come about,” she said.

To this end, Castleberry urged the community to utilize informed resources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and the Campbell County website. Dr. Alex Ayers, superintendent of schools for the Campbell County School District, added the Campbell County School District website as a resource and Geno Palazarri, communication manager for City of Gillette, encouraged the community to visit the City of Gillette website and follow the city on social media including on Facebook page, IG and Twitter for real-time updates and public announcements.

Support local business

Reardon also asked that people utilize the curbside to-go service that most restaurants are using in lieu of dine-in. Castleberry, likewise, suggested ordering a gift certificate from one of the closed businesses to support them. Currently, the federal government is nailing down a relief package to help these businesses weather the shutdown.

Along with grocery stores, hair salons are also open, the panel noted. The city, too, is doing its part to help citizens keep the lights on, Geno Palazarri, public information officer for the City of Gillette, said. Nobody’s electricity will be turned off, he noted, and the city is waving any corresponding late fees and notices.

Likewise, county employees are still working on marriage licenses and other documents, and residents are encouraged to check the county and city websites for more information.

In closing, Barabas said, tellingly, “I do expect that this will, potentially, be sort of a new norm for many weeks, if not for many months.”

Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Up To 29

in Coronavirus/News

The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming grew to 29 on Monday night as Health Department officials reported a new case in Natrona County.

The new case bring’s Natrona County’s total to two.

Fremont County, where two coronavirus patients were reported to be fully recovered Monday, remains the county hardest hit by the virus with a total of 10 cases since the outbreak began.

Laramie County followed with seven cases, while four were reported in Sheridan County, two each were seen in Teton, Carbon and Natrona counties and one case was reported in each of Park and Campbell counties.

Gordon: Wyoming May Put More Restrictions in Place

in Coronavirus/Mark Gordon/News

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The impacts of the coronavirus in Wyoming are likely to last far beyond two weeks and the state may have to put more restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.

Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said the business closures and restrictions imposed on social gatherings by state officials may help reduce the extent of COVID-19’s impact.

“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” he said. “This is going to impact life in Wyoming for a long time to come. We are going to have community spread (of the virus), but the actions people take now will make a difference.”

Gordon’s comments came as the number of coronavirus cases in the state grew to 28, but also in the wake of news that two Fremont County residents diagnosed with the illness have fully recovered and have been removed from isolation.

Many Wyoming businesses have been ordered closed and the state has banned all gatherings of more than 10 people in attempts to slow the spread of the virus.

Gordon said the willingness of Wyoming residents to live with the orders will help determine whether more restrictions are needed in the future.

“I think it’s really important that every Wyoming citizen understand that it is their responsibility to exercise their right to do the right thing,” he said. “Our hope is that people will take this seriously, understand what the consequences are. It is absolutely imperative that we address this quickly so that we don’t overrun our medical capacities.”

Gordon also said hoped Wyoming could avoid the kind of orders for people to “shelter in place” and not leave their homes that have been issued in other states.

“At this point, we do not believe a shelter in place order is necessary,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to find a balance that respects private property rights, personal liberties and prudent health standards. We can hopefully look to Wyoming being a bellwether state that leads the nation in not having to proceed with shelter in place. But that can only come with citizens stepping up and doing their part with social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and doing their best to meet these orders.”

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, also gave updates during the news conference on progress being made in testing people believe to have coronavirus.

Harrist said the state Public Health Laboratory can now complete about 100 tests a day for coronavirus, but added the state is also running sort of the supplies needed to conduct tests.

Also speaking at the conference was state Auditor Kristi Racines, who is heading up one of Gordon’s five task forces dealing with the impacts of coronavirus.

Racines’ task force is looking at the impacts to the state’s business sector. She said the task force has broken up its focus to three areas— providing support for the state’s businesses, support for the state’s employees and support for the state’s financial and banking industries.

Gordon closed by urging Wyoming residents to follow the advice to stay home if possible, limit trips and remain a safe distance away from others.

“This is a battle, this is a war,” he said. “And as we address this war, we will be victorious if we work together.

New Coronavirus Cases Reported In Teton, Fremont Counties

in Coronavirus/News

New coronavirus cases in Teton and Fremont counties brought the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 84 on Saturday.

 The Wyoming Department of Health reported Saturday afternoon that one new case had been diagnosed in each of the counties.

 The new count brings to 11 the new cases reported in Wyoming on Saturday.

 As of Saturday evening, the number of cases around the state stood at 21 in Fremont County, 19 in Laramie County, 14 in Teton County, eight in Natrona, and six in Sheridan. Johnson County had five cases and three cases were reported in Carbon County.

Albany, Campbell, Converse, Goshen, Park, Sublette, Sweetwater and Washakie counties each reported one case.

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Cheyenne Schools Create Contingency Plans In Case Closures Extend Beyond April 3

in Coronavirus/Education/News

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne schools are preparing a contingency plan in case the coronavirus pandemic causes schools to be closed beyond April 3.

“While this remote learning plan could proceed through the end of the year, we will consider it a bonus if we can get our students back in schools sooner,” Boyd Brown, superintendent of Laramie County School District No. 1 said in a news release on the district’s Facebook page. “Know that the district’s administration, teachers and staff members miss having contact with our students.”

This week, teachers will reach to families using the Remind app. Students will be invited to refresh their learning, beginning with lessons they were working on prior to the school closures.

Pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students will focus on English/Language Arts and math. Teachers will weave other disciplines into lessons when possible.

Prioritized standards will be streamlined for students in seventh through 12 grades. Electives will be taught in a “creative” manner.

If the closure remains in effect, students will begin remote learning April 6. At that time, new material will be taught.

Remote learning will occcur in a variety communication methods. This will include learning packets, online instruction, phone calls, mailings and more. Paper copy packets will be provided to families without access to certain technology. District officials are working with administrators at the Transportation Department to develop a method of delivering and receiving the work from students and parents.

Beginning April 6, students will be engaged in lessons for each scheduled class. All lessons will include a learning target, an instructional component, student practice and a demonstration of learning. Resource teachers and case managers will ensure IEP students receive all assigned work and will work with parents for accommodations.

“Without a doubt, this is a very challenging experience for all,” Brown said. “Together, we can work to keep our community safe while allowing our students to progress academically. We are going to get through this together.”

Furious Barrasso Slams Democrats For Blocking Coronavirus Aid Package

in Coronavirus/News

Anybody who has seen Sen. John Barrasso at a rally knows that he can get fired up to whip a crowd into a frenzy.

Today, he got fired up in a different way — he got angry.

On the Senate floor, Barrasso slammed Democrats for blocking a vote on a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package designed to provide economic assistance in the face of business closures forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m a doctor,” Barrasso said. “I’ve been on the phone with doctors across the country, with my colleagues at the Wyoming Medical Center. They are working double-time and through the weekend.

“Day and night, the nurses, the doctors, the health care providers, they need help,” Barrasso said.

This was the second time in as many days the Democrats blocked a key procedural vote needed to move the bill to final consideration. They said the bill didn’t do enough to assist average people and focused too much on corporations.

Barrasso couldn’t have disagreed more with that charge.

“Our colleagues, our friends, our neighbors woke up today not being able to go to work,” he said. “Not knowing if they will have a paycheck, not knowing if they can pay their bills, not knowing if they can feed their families, not knowing if they can get food.”

“And yet we are ready to provide relief. They need it immediately,” he said.

Lander Emergency Room Physician: “I’m Afraid We Could Get Overwhelmed”

in Coronavirus/News

Family nurse practitioner Kristy Brown Cardinal at the Lander Medical Clinic posted this note from Sage West Medical Center Emergency Room physician Dr. Tom Rangitsch on her Facebook page today.

A note from Dr. Tom Rangitsch who is an ER physician at Sage West Lander. This post is from this morning…… Please…

Posted by Kristy Brown- Cardinal on Monday, March 23, 2020

“I don’t want to sound like a harbinger of doom. There has been quite enough of that lately and I wish I could focus on the positive. But the situation in my small-town hospital is not rosy.

“We are seeing increasing cases, sick people with bad disease. It’s affecting people who are not old and who do not have underlying illnesses.

“I am really afraid that we could be overwhelmed at some point in the not so distant future. The nurses and the doctors here are doing exceptional work and should be commended for their care and compassion. We are being constantly exposed and we don’t have a deep bench to draw from when we foul out.

“It is very difficult for those who have been affected with loss of employment and the opportunity for social interaction. But we need to try to flatten the curve.

“Please do your part to prevent the spread of this terrible disease. I hope I am wrong and this is just my pessimistic nature looking at the negative side of things. It’s been a rough night for me and maybe I’ll have a better outlook tomorrow.”

Liz Cheney to Chinese Foreign Ministry: “How About You Stop Eating Bats?”

in Coronavirus/News

Liz Cheney isn’t a fan of the Chinese government’s spin on the coronavirus outbreak.

That became even more evident on Friday evening when she responded to continuing propaganda offered by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying over Twitter.

Chunying, who has been compared to the Iraq War’s “Baghdad Bob,” came under fire from the State Department earlier on Friday for spreading misinformation about supposed transparency from the Chinese government about the virus.

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She said China first told the U.S. of the outbreak on January 3 but the State Department didn’t alert Americans in Wuhan until January 15.

“And now blame China for delay? Seriously” she wrote.

The State Department responded:”By Jan. 3, Chinese authorities had already ordered #COVID19 virus samples destroyed, silenced Wuhan doctors, and censored public concerns online.”

Cheney offered a more blunt response. In wrestling parlance, she answered from the “top-ropes”.

“How about you stop eating bats. Seriously.” Cheney wrote.

Wyoming Records 23rd Coronavirus Case

in Coronavirus/News

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s coronavirus case count increased to 23 Saturday as the Wyoming Department of Health reported a newly diagnosed case in Carbon County.

The case was the first for the county. No further details about the diagnosis were immediately available.

On Friday, the state’s coronavirus case count went up by four with one new case each in Natrona, Teton, Fremont and Campbell counties.

The increase in case counts follows predictions by state officials that the number of confirmed cases would rise with increased testing in Wyoming’s population. 

According to the Health Department, by Saturday morning, 409 tests had been processed at the state Public Health Laboratory and commercial labs had conducted 31 tests.

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