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25 More Covid-Related Deaths in Wyoming

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The deaths of another 25 Wyoming residents have been linked to coronavirus, according to to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The department on Tuesday announced the number of Wyoming residents whose deaths have been connected to COVID grew to 1,174 with the deaths that occurred in September and October.

The victims included five Campbell County residents, all women. Four were hospitalized for treatment, while the fifth was a resident of a long-term care facility.

Three Big Horn County residents, two women and one man, also died in October, the department said, as did three Laramie County residents, one woman and two men.

Three Natrona County women also died in October, the department said.

Other victims included one Fremont County woman, a Goshen County man and woman, a Hot Springs County man, two Lincoln County women, one Sheridan County man, a Sublette County man, a Sweetwater County woman and two Washakie County men.

The announcement came on the same day as the department’s figures showed the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming dropped by 144 on Tuesday to total 2,940.

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CDC: Wyoming Has Highest COVID Death Rate In Nation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming now has the highest rate of COVID deaths in the United States, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wyoming had 11.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the last seven days, overtaking Montana (whose rate is 11.1 per 100,000 people) to have the highest death rate in the nation.

The state saw 69 COVID-related deaths in the last week, totaling 1,149 total COVID deaths seen in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.

Montana actually saw 119 deaths in the last seven days, but population density factors into Wyoming having the highest rate.

Alaska, Montana and Wyoming are respectively the three states with the highest COVID-19 transmission rates per capita. Wyoming reported 3,037 COVID-19 cases in the past seven days, amounting to 524.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

Florida, California and Connecticut all had some of the lowest death rates in the nation, while Florida and California were also charting low on the list for active COVID case rates.

California currently requires anyone who is not fully vaccinated to wear masks while inside public settings, whereas Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has repeatedly stated he will not issue any type of mask or vaccine mandate.

Wyoming saw a new peak of COVID-related hospitalizations last week, with 248 people hospitalized across the state due to the virus, according to the Wyoming hospitalization tracker.

Sixty-seven of those patients were at the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, while Cheyenne Regional Medical Center had the second-highest number of patients with 34 as of Friday. The Wyoming Medical Center also did not have any available intensive care unit beds as of Friday.

SageWest Health Care in Lander, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Rawlins, Cody Regional Health and Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette also had no available ICU beds.

Wyoming’s Legislature will convene this week for a special session to discuss President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandates for companies with more than 100 employees.

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389 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Friday; 661 Recoveries; 3,398 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus decreased by 149 on Friday to end the week. 

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports Friday of 661 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time,

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200. 

Natrona County had 597; Freemont 368; Laramie 341; Sheridan 281; Campbell 225; Uinta 174; Goshen 162; Carbon and Sweetwater 159; Park 151; Albany 147; Washakie 119; Lincoln 105; Teton 74; Converse 60; Platte 57; Weston 44; Sublette 37; Crook 34; Big Horn 33; Johnson 30; Niobrara had 26, while Hot Springs 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 100,174 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 95,640 have recovered.

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Wyoming Dept Of Health Says More People Should Get COVID Booster Shots

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming residents’ eligibility for COVID vaccine booster shots has been expanded to include seniors, along with those who may be at a high risk for the illness, the Wyoming Department of Health announced on Friday.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added booster dose recommendations for the COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Moderna and by Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) for certain groups of people to previous recommendations issues for the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer.

The updated CDC recommendations follow authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“Booster doses do just what the name implies: they ‘boost’ the strong protection the vaccines already offer. This ‘boost’ is especially important for those who are most likely to experience severe illness or exposure to the virus,” Harrist said.

Among people who received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, those eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their second dose include people who are:

For people who previously received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.

The CDC also approved a “mix and match” approach for booster doses, which means people may receive COVID-19 booster doses produced by a different company than produced their original vaccine. For example, those who previously received the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine may choose a booster dose of either a Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“We continue to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Wyoming and the state’s low vaccination rates contribute to our vulnerability to the aggressive Delta variant,” Harrist said. “For those people who are not yet vaccinated, getting started with COVID-19 vaccines remains a key priority and the most important step available to help prevent COVID-19 illness.

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to be safe and effective against COVID-19, including the variants, and are especially good at protecting against severe illness,” Harrist continued.

All COVID-19 vaccine doses continue to be offered at no cost to those who receive them.

Harrist noted it is considered safe to get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine dose at the same time.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving either of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The CDC earlier recommended an additional dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems.

Available data has shown that the vaccine’s protection decreases over time following initial doses. With the Delta variant being so contagious, health officials are seeing evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate cases of the disease.

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Wyoming COVID Hospitalizations Hit Record

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

More Wyoming residents were hospitalized for coronavirus treatment Thursday than at any other point during the pandemic, Wyoming Health Department figures showed.

The department, in its regular coronavirus update, said Wyoming’s hospitalis reported 249 people were hospitalized on Thursday, more than at any point since the illness was discovered in Wyoming in March 2020. The previous high number was seen on Nov. 30, when hospitalizations reached 247.

However, the number of active COVID cases in Wyoming on Thursday, 3,547, was well below the number seen on Nov. 30, 8,612.

While the Health Department is not certain of the reason for the higher hospitalization numbers, the increase could be related to the Delta variant, said Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the department.

The spike could also be the result of people not being tested for COVID, which means they may wait to treat the illness until hospitalization is required, she said.

“One reason avoiding testing is unfortunate is there are treatments available to people who test positive that can potentially keep them from becoming more seriously ill,” she said in an email. “It also affects ongoing transmission.”

In addition, hospitalizations are lasting longer than they did in November, Deti said.

“We are having more cases and more hospitalizations at high levels for a longer period of time than during last year’s peak,” she said. “More cases over more time is certainly likely to be due to Delta variant.”

Casper’s Wyoming Medical Center was treating the highest number of coronavirus patients in the state, 66, while Cheyenne Regional Medical Center was treating 34 and 23 were at the Campbell County Memorial Hospital.

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State Senator Thinks Special Session On Vaccine Mandate Is Bad Idea

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Longtime state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, thinks that next week’s legislative special session regarding vaccine mandates is a bad idea, he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“I don’t agree with the federal mandates on employers and I want to be clear about that,” Case said. “But I don’t see a legislative path to fix that.”

The Legislature is to begin a three-day special session on Tuesday to formulate the state’s response to President Joe Biden’s mandate that government workers, health care employees and employees at companies employing more than 100 people receive the corronavirus vaccine or be tested regularly for the illness.

Before any work can begin, the rules spelling out how the session will proceed will have to be approved by two-thirds of the legislators.

Thirty-five Wyoming representatives and 17 senators voted in favor of holding a special session, while 12 representatives and seven senators voted against holding one. Case was one of the senators who voted against the session.

The Biden administration has not yet issued the rules that will be required to put the mandate into effect and Case said that is the biggest argument against holding a special session.

“I think we run the risk of putting our Wyoming employers in a squeeze between state and federal policy,” he said.

Case added that the Wyoming Legislature cannot hold a special session every time “a bunch of people get mad at something that happens.” He said many Wyoming voters who have pushed for the special session do not fully understand how the legislative process works.

“I’ve actually had people tell me that we can nullify a federal law, because all we have to do is pass a law that nullifies it,” Case said. “I assure you, we can’t do that.”

Gov. Mark Gordon and Attorney General Bridget Hill are preparing to file a legal challenge on Wyoming’s behalf once the rules are completed, which Case totally supported.

“I think we are in the realm of overreach by the federal government and I think in the end, it is the legal efforts that we join with other states that will be successful, not these special sessions,” he said.

Case’s stance is in opposition to that taken by many of his colleagues.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session and he announced his position by posting a photo of his ballot to social media, along with a post-it note containing a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

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

Banner Health operates multiple health care facilities 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 officials said the company 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.

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Wyoming Special Session Slated For Next Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Legislature will convene for a special session next week to address coronavirus vaccination mandates expected to be handed down by the federal government, the Legislative Service Office announced Tuesday.

The Legislature’s leaders, Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, received a sufficient number of votes affirming the decision to have a special session, the LSO said.

The three-day session will begin at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26.

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, the Senate’s majority floor leader, explained that despite the fact that about 20 bills could be introduced during the special session, the legislators’ focus would be on vaccine mandates.

“We’re going to keep the topic very narrow, just to mandates,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We’ve got three bills being worked on right now, and in the broadest terms, one deals with federal overreach, one is about employer mandates and then there’s one about employee rights.”

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 every week for the illness.

However, the Biden administration has not yet released the rules to put the mandate in place. As a result, writing bills in Wyoming for federal policies that are not yet in place could be tricky.

“The LSO has done a phenomenal job with these bills,” Driskill said. “We want to be careful to avoid making a law where Wyoming citizens and employers have to decide between violating a state law or a federal one. It’s really hard to deal with rules that aren’t out there yet.”

Thirty-five Wyoming representatives and 17 senators voted to hold a special session, while 12 representatives and seven senators voted against holding one.

According to the LSO, the Legislature plans to hold committee meetings on Oct. 26. After that, identical versions of any bills to be considered will be worked in each chamber, with the required three reviews of the bills to take place Oct. 27. Then joint conference committee meetings will be held Oct. 28 to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills.

Barlow and Dockstader did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.

The rules formalizing the schedule will have to be approved by two-thirds of the legislators when they open the session on Oct. 26.

Nine members of Wyoming’s Democratic Caucus told legislative leadership that they would be voting against the session. The legislators included Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Mike Yin, D-Jackson, Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, and Andi Clifford, D-Riverton, and Sens. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson.

“After considering the $25,000 per day cost of a special session, the lack of released federal rules in regards to how OSHA may enforce vaccine mandates, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution that indicates that federal laws override state directives, we believe a special session would be an undue burden to the taxpayer, a waste of time and resources for legislators and our staff, and would further cause an undue burden to Wyoming businesses who would be forced to choose  between following state OR federal law, requiring them to be in violation of one or the other,” the caucus wrote. 

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, was one of the Republican members of the legislature who also voted against the special session.

“My stance is clear: Our President’s mandate has no place in Wyoming,” Brown said on social media last week. “Unfortunately, we have no clue what his mandate looks like under rule making process and we would be fighting against a rule that doesn’t exist yet. While I believe President Biden’s proposed rule is too far for government to reach, I also believe it is too far for government to enter into the hiring practices of private businesses.”

“If a private business wishes to impose hiring protocols that an employee is uncomfortable with, they have the choice to not enter into that employment,” he continued. “Likewise, the business should be ready to suffer the consequences of the choices they choose to impose or not impose on their employees and the response from the public. Let the business succeed or fail based on their merit, not on government interference.”

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session, posting a photo of his ballot to social media, along with a post-it note containing a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

Gov. Mark Gordon and Attorney General Bridget Hill are preparing Wyoming’s legal challenge to the federal vaccine mandate when they are finalized. 

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166 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 407 Recoveries; 3,064 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count decreased by 61 on Tuesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 407 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 166 new laboratory-confirmed and 236 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,064 active cases for Tuesday.

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200.

Natrona County had 541; Freemont 313; Laramie 291; Sheridan 241; Campbell 220; Goshen 159; Uinta 146; Park 143; Albany 137; Sweetwater 117; Washakie 111; Carbon 105; Lincoln 101; Converse 86; Teton 67; Platte 62; Weston 41; Sublette 37; Niobrara 34; Crook 33; Big Horn 32; Johnson had 29; while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 17.

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 98,567 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 94,367 have recovered.  

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Wyoming Health Department Announces 56 More Deaths Tied To COVID

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming deaths blamed on coronavirus since it was first detected in March 2020 has increased to 1,136, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department said the deaths of 56 Wyoming residents were linked to the coronavirus in September and October.

Nine deaths were reported among Natrona County residents, five men and four women, and seven were hospitalized for treatment.

Campbell County reported eight residents died in September and October, five women and three men, while eight Sheridan County residents, five women and three men, also died within the last two months.

Victims also included six Laramie County residents, three men and three women, five Fremont County residents, three men and two women, and four Big Horn County residents, three men and one woman.

Other victims included a Converse County man, two Goshen County men, a Johnson County man, a Sheridan County man and woman, two Sublette County men, two Sweetwater County men, a Sweetwater County woman, a Teton County woman, two Washakie County women, a Washakie County man and a Weston County man.

The announcement was made as the state reported the number of active coronavirus cases in the state declined by 61 on Tuesday from Monday to total 3,064.

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826 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Monday; 1,435 Recoveries; 3,125 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 407 over the weekend.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 1,435 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases between Friday and Monday. 

At the same time, the state reported 826 new laboratory-confirmed and 202 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,125 active cases on Monday.

Twelve counties have more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200. 

Natrona County had 558; Freemont 309; Laramie 293; Campbell 246; Sheridan 236; Goshen 195; Park 161; Albany 144; Sweetwater and Uinta 133; Washakie 107; Carbon 101; Lincoln 86; Teton 73; Converse 69; Platte 68; Weston 47; Sublette 39; Big Horn 32 Crook and Johnson 26; Niobrara 25; had while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 18. 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 98,165 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 93,960 have recovered.

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