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Medical Society President to Governor: “Take Even More Drastic Actions”

in Coronavirus/News
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Wyoming will experience a “shocking” death rate if citizens don’t stay in their homes except in emergency situations, according to Wyoming Medical Society President Dr. David Wheeler.

Wheeler, appearing on KTWO-TV on Wednesday, added to the comments he made while appearing with Gov. Mark Gordon in a news conference earlier this week. At that time, Wheeler stressed it is crucial that officials take action to restrict the movements of the state’s residents.

“We recommend and encourage him and our local leaders to take even more drastic actions than what we’ve seen so far,” he said Thursday. “We continue to see what we consider are a number of non-essential businesses with their doors open and their lobbies open and people venturing out to take care of normal every day business.”

Wheeler said Gordon’s mandates closing schools and some businesses aren’t enough and implored the governor take further steps to encourage people to stay in their homes.

“It is critically important that folks take seriously this message that you need to stay away from people and stay safely in (your) homes,” Dr. Wheeler said. “If we don’t do this now … the number of people who are going to die in Wyoming is going to be shocking to all of our souls.”

Wheeler said he understood that implementing a stay-at-home mandate would be challenging as Gordon is “operating from a political reality” that would make it difficult.

“We do have a common message,” Wheeler said. “He and I both absolutely 100% encourage every person in Wyoming to stay in their home unless they have some critical and urgent need for them to be out and about.”

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Wyoming State Health Lab To Limit Coronavirus Testing

in Coronavirus/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Because of short supplies of materials, the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory will only conduct coronavirus tests on samples from high-priority patients, health care workers and first responders, the Department of Health announced Thursday.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said the lab will only accept samples from people suspected of having the coronavirus if they come from hospitalized patients, patients or staff in communal settings such as nursing homes, health care workers and first responders, people over 65 with underlying health concerns and those who have contact with them or pregnant women.

Samples for all other suspected coronavirus cases need to be to be sent to private laboratories to preserve the Public Health Laboratory’s supply of testing materials, Harrist said.

“We are hopeful the supply situation will improve, but in the meantime we must ensure timely testing is available when it can make the most difference to help meet our most critical needs,” Harrist said.

Harrist, who oversees the Public Health Laboratory, said the lab’s supplies have held out so far, but officials are growing concerned about the demand for testing materials.

“We’ve done well so far at our lab, but our concern about supplies of certain materials we need for testing has grown,” she said.

Wyoming to Keep Borders Open; Americans Want State Borders Closed

in Coronavirus/News
Wyoming sign
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A new Rasmussen poll showed that Americans, by a two-thirds majority, would like their borders closed to other states.

Further, respondents are in favor of fines being imposed to individuals who break social distancing guidelines.

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 likely U.S. voters,  did not break down responses by state.

Here in Wyoming, complaints about out-of-state citizens crossing Wyoming’s borders to shop are a frequent subject of discussion on social media. 

When asked about Colorado drivers crossing the border to shop for supplies in Niobrara and Goshen counties, Gov. Mark Gordon said the onus is on the local store owners.

“The issue, really, is happening all around our borders,” he said, mentioning Utah citizens driving to Uinta County for supplies.

“My recommendation is that stores begin to pace that and make sure we don’t have all of our supplies going to out-of-state buyers,” he said.

Gordon noted the state has banned overnight camping in state parks as a way to deter traffic from outside the state.

“We have severely limited what Wyoming [state] parks can offer,” he said. “They are still available if you want to go walk, but there is no overnight camping.”

Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said no thought was being given to closing Wyoming’s borders to travelers from other states.

“We are not shutting down our borders,” he wrote in an email.

Other states are examining such closures and several have already imposed restrictions on travelers crossing their borders. Vermont’s governor on Wednesday said the state is investigating the prevalence of out-of-state traffic to its state.

“We’re not taking registration numbers or anything like that. Just looking for colors of plates to determine who’s coming in. And then we’ll react accordingly,” Gov. Phil Scott said at a press conference.

The State of Rhode Island has set up checkpoints on some of their roads and is stopping all vehicles with out-of-state plates to track potential COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy warned out of staters with less-restrictive stay-at-home mandates that they are not welcome.

“I don’t want anybody coming in from another part of the country where they had lax restrictions and undoing what we have done,” he said.

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Most Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Found In Those 60 to 69

in Coronavirus/News
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While the highest percentage of coronavirus cases on Wyoming are found among those age 60 to 69, cases in those age 40 to 49 are almost as high, according to state figures.

Wyoming Department of Health figures show that as of Thursday morning, 20% of the state’s coronavirus cases are found among those age 60 to 69. If the percentage is applied to Thursday morning’s case count of 150, that means 30 people age 60 to 69 have contracted the virus since it arrived in Wyoming.

However, those age 40 to 49 account for 16% of the cases — 24 — using the case count seen Thursday, while those age 50 to 59 account for 14.7% of the cases.Those age 19 to 39 made up about 22 percent of the cases. Only 2.7% of the coronavirus infections — about four cases — were among those older than 80, while 4.7% of the infections were found among those 18 or younger.Hospitalizations have been required in 13.3% of cases, about 20 people.

Cases continue to occur most often in women at 49.3%, 74 cases, while men accounted for 36 percent of the cases, 54. The Health Department did not specify a sex for the other roughly 15% of the cases.

The statistics can be found at the state Department of Health’s website: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-map-and-statistics/.

Renewing Your Driver’s License During a Pandemic

in Coronavirus/Transportation
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Even in the best of times, no one really likes going to get their driver’s license renewed. It’s usually a slog, where you’re stuck in a waiting room surrounded by people who also don’t want to be here. Who wants to spend the precious downtime in their day waiting in line?

On Wednesday, I went on a journalistic (and personal) endeavor to find out what it is like getting a driver’s license renewed during the coronavirus pandemic.

For background: I turned 28 on March 11 (in case anyone wants to send really late birthday gifts). My driver’s license, which I got in Kansas in 2014, expired the same day. Like the responsible adult I am, I realized on my birthday that I couldn’t find my birth certificate, which I needed to get my license renewed.

After contacting the state of Kansas and paying the equivalent of a semi-nice dinner to have the darn piece of paper shipped to me, I finally got my birth certificate a week after my birthday.

On Wednesday morning, I gathered all of my documents and headed to the Wyoming Department of Transportation building in Cheyenne.

I scanned the parking lot, trying to figure out how many people were currently inside the building. I’d arrived early, just 15 minutes after the office opened, but there were about 12 cars in the lot, belonging to employees and the public. Since the Cheyenne location is limited to 10 people in the building at a time, I had a suspicious feeling that I’d be asked to wait outside.

I was quickly proven right. Within three minutes of walking into the building, I was given a license application to fill out, but I was asked to wait in my car until one of the employees called me to come back inside. Instead of walking the extra few yards to my car, I waited outside, enjoying the last few rays of sunlight I’ll likely see before I retire to my apartment until summer.

The wait thankfully wasn’t long, maybe five minutes at the most. I hadn’t even finished filling out the application.

I got back inside and was a bit surprised to see how quickly the other clients had been taken care of and ushered out of the building. I was the only person being helped. As I talked with the few staffers behind the counter, they told me how slow the days were now that people weren’t constantly in and out of the building.

The woman helping me said she’d only been working at the office for a month and that when she started, the workload was heavy and they were constantly busy. Now? Not so much.

There was a sign next to my seat, letting people know they may experience longer wait times since the department was short-staffed, but it didn’t seem that note applied to this situation.

The staff also said they’re sanitizing everything a person uses, including the seat they occupied while waiting, after they leave the building.

In total, the visit took 30 minutes from me arriving to when I walked out of the building to go home. This might have been one of the smoothest experiences I’ve ever had getting a driver’s license. I couldn’t believe it.

The moral? If you need to get something essential like this done, a pandemic may be the best time to do it.

Wyoming Still Last For Social Distancing (But We’ve Gone From an F to an F+)

in Coronavirus/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming continues to fare poorly in a company’s ranking of how well states are observing “social distancing.”

Unacast, a company that tracks the movement of people using their cell phone signals, continued to rank Wyoming last in the nation for social distancing based on changes in travel habits and visits to non-essential destinations since coronavirus first appeared in the United States in late February.

Last week, the company rated the state last in the nation because on average, the travel distances of Wyoming residents increased by 6% since late February, indicating that people were roaming farther from home.

In the latest report, issued Wednesday, the company said the state still gets an “F” for distances traveled by its residents, even though average travel distances had dropped by 25% as of Saturday. To get a “D,” distances must have declined by 26% to 40%.

The company also factored in the changes seen in the number of trips taken to non-essential locations such as restaurants, department stores and hobby shops.

The company also gave the state an “F” for such trips, saying the number of such trips has declined by 55% from late March.

To earn a “D,” states must reduce such trips by 56% to 60%.

Only one county in Wyoming earned an “A” for its efforts — Teton County with a 70 percent decline in mobility. Six counties received a grade of “F.”

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Fremont County Public Health Officer: Patients Critically Ill & On Ventilators

in Coronavirus/News
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By Bill Sniffin

Publisher, Cowboy State Daily

At least five Fremont County coronavirus patients are critically ill and are using ventilators, the county’s public health officer announced Wednesday.

Dr. Brian Gee, in a video, said half of the 16 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state are in Fremont County.

“And more than half of them are critically ill and on ventilators,” Gee said.

The state Department of Health set the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Fremont County as of Wednesday morning at 25.

But the Fremont County Incident Management Team reported that over the last 14 days, more than 600 people have been directed by doctors to self-isolate because they are showing signs of the illness.

Gee stressed that those self-isolating are not all elderly.

“The hundreds of patients were and are people young and old who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection,” he said. “The young are not immune. Our county currently has three patients under 60 who are seriously or critically ill.”

A diagnosis of coronavirus in a man at a Lander retirement home was among the first in the state.

Fremont County is located in the center of the state and has a population of 40,000 people. Its also the location of the Wind River Indian Reservation.  Riverton, Lander, Dubois, Hudson, Shoshoni, and Pavillion are some of the towns in the county. 

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Mayor of Jackson to Tourists: Stay Home and Shelter-in-Place

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The Mayor of Jackson wants tourists to visit Jackson — just not now.

Pete Muldoon posted a video on Tuesday asking would-be tourists to stay out of the area for now.

“We’re looking forward to seeing you soon but right now, we’re asking you to hang your hat at home and help us give our small mountain town a chance to get through the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Jackson Hole has very limited resources and our health care system will be stretched as we protect our most precious asset — member of our community,” Muldoon said.

Last week, Teton County and the town of Jackson both issued stay-at-home orders.

“(We) have seen mounting evidence that community-wide stay-at-home orders can have significant impacts on slowing the virus’ spread, particularly when implemented in the early phase of viral community spread,” said Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton County’s health officer. “We are in that phase now. I am absolutely in favor of a community-wide stay-at-home order.”

The town of Jackson rescinded its order on Monday in favor of a new county mandate.

The county order directs residents to have contact with no one except the people in their homes , except to perform tasks essential to health and safety, to obtain or deliver necessary supplies or services — such as groceries or medical supplies — to work at an essential business, to care for others or to take part in outdoor activities.

“So please, do the right thing for now. Stay home, shelter at home, stay healthy,” the mayor said. “We look forward to welcoming you on your next adventure to Jackson Hole when travel is recommended again.

As of Wednesday morning, Teton County had 26 confirmed coronavirus cases, the second-highest total in the state.

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Wyoming Doctor: In 40 Years of Practice, This is Scariest Medical Emergency I’ve Dealt With

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Without any violation of patient privacy, I need to say that my last 3 day weekend at the ED in Jackson was very…

Posted by Dubois Medical Clinic on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dubois physician Vaughn Morgan has an ominous warning for Wyoming citizens regarding the COVID-19 virus: “It’s very real and very deadly”.

According to a post on the Dubois Medical Clinic Facebook page, Morgan said he spent three days in the emergency department at St. John’s Hospital in Jackson and the experience was “sobering.”

“Several admitted, some critical on [ventilators], and only one of those admitted was over age 70,” he said. “The rest were under 59 and some in their 20s.”

“This is not SOLELY an ‘old people’ disease, and it is FAR more than just a cold for many,” he said.

“To those still not taking it seriously, you are endangering others, and are at best, woefully misinformed and, at worst, downright delusional,” he continued.

Vaughn said he practiced medicine when HIV/AIDS first came out in the 1980s and when Hepatitis-C surfaced in the 1990s. Both are bloodborne illnesses and much easier to defend against than viruses, he said.

“It’s much easier to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens than highly contagious respiratory ones like COVID-19,” he said.

“In my 40 years of practice, this is hand’s down the scariest medical emergency I’ve ever dealt with,” he wrote. “It’s VERY real, and VERY deadly to some (and not just the elderly). STAY HOME, and DON’T gather in groups.”

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Washington Study Predicts 143 Deaths in Wyoming and a Shortage of ICU Beds in May

in Coronavirus/News
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The Wyoming Department of Health isn’t endorsing a study from the University of Washington that is predicting deaths for the state of Wyoming from the COVID-19 virus.

The study, released Tuesday, estimates that Wyoming will have a total of 143 deaths through August 4, 2020 if “strong social distancing measures and other protective measures” are continued.

Wyoming will experience four deaths per day, according to the model, in late April and early May. 

As for hospital resources, 66 ICU beds will be needed on May 3, 2020 — which would be 22 more than currently available in the state.

Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said the state is studying several such models from different sources to determine if they might be useful.

“But at this point we are not endorsing any specific modeling tool,” she said in an email.

Deti said the department’s first priority is to use its own available data to help manage the coronavirus epidemic.

“This includes the epidemiological data from testing and follow up, much of which is provided on our website,” she said. “In addition, we are using and refining our estimates of Wyoming hospital and health care system capacity to make them more useful.”

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