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Wyoming Residents Have 90-Day Window to Renew Expired Licenses

in News/Transportation/Coronavirus
Gov Gordon Budget

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Tuesday that he signed an executive order granting a reprieve for those with expired driver’s licenses.

There’s a catch, though: the window for expired licenses is from March 15 to June 1. Any person whose driver’s license expires in that period will have 90 days to get the license renewed.

The order also suspended non-commercial driving tests for the time being, but commercial driving tests will only be available by appointment.

The intent of the order is to protect the public and the state’s workforce by limiting interactions with state employees and at governmental offices

The Wyoming Department of Transportation will reassess the situation on April 20 to determine if testing can resume.

Lander Gin Distiller Now Making Hand Sanitizer

in News/Coronavirus/Business

By Paul McCown, owner of Huck Gin in Lander

A few months back, I decided to formalize something I’ve done for fun in the past: making gin.

After my lovely bride questioned my sanity (she has occasions to do this on a regular basis), I decided to start a gin distillery right here in Lander.

Over the last few months, I’ve been pulling together all of the ingredients, equipment, and licensing required.

My first product, Huck Gin, will have a leading flavor profile of juniper, accompanied by strong infusions of huckleberry, all made from locally-sourced ingredients from right here in Lander and the Rocky Mountain West.

Now, with coronavirus impacting our community, I was asked by the Wyoming Business Council in conjunction, with the state of Wyoming, if I could convert my gin stilling operation to focus on the production of germ-killing hand sanitizer?

This was certainly never part of my plan, but with such a strong need across the state, I feel a firm calling to give back to this wonderful place I call home. So while I’ll be busy at my distillery, it won’t be from creating Huck Gin just yet. 

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other distilleries in the state. On a recent afternoon, we all had a call together with the federal agencies that will be required to get this done.

I can’t stop thinking about how amazing this community and state are. Competitors, all putting it aside for a higher cause. This is truly a special place. 

Editor’s note: A number of Wyoming distilleries have committed to producing sanitizer to help make up for shortages, including Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne, Pine Bluffs Distilling, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby and Jackson Hole Still Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson. The Wyoming Business Council on Tuesday was directed to provide financial assistance to any distillery manufacturing hand sanitizer.

Coronavirus Cases Set At 49 In Wyoming

in News/Coronavirus

The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming grew to 49 on Wednesday, with 10 new cases reported as of 9 p.m.

The Wyoming Health Department reported the newest cases were seen in Natrona, Albany, Teton, Laramie and Fremont counties.

The one new case was the first for Albany County, while three more new cases were reported in Teton County, bringing its total to six.Laramie County’s case count went up by four, while Fremont and Natrona counts increased by two each.

Fremont County still has the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 14. Laramie County has 12, while Teton and Natrona have six, Sheridan County has four, Carbon County has three and Albany, Campbell, Park and Sweetwater counties all have one.

State Coronavirus Count Up To 37, New Cases In Six Counties

in News/Coronavirus

Wyoming’s coronavirus case count jumped by eight on Tuesday, with new cases diagnosed in Laramie, Teton, Carbon, Natrona, Sweetwater and Fremont Counties.

The case reported in Sweetwater County was the county’s first. In Laramie, the new case brought the total number in the county to eight.

Fremont County, still the hardest hit county in the state, reported two new cases to see its total rise to 12.

Two new cases were reported in Natrona County, while Teton and Carbon each added one during the day.

Governor Closes Down More Small Business Due to Coronavirus

in News/Coronavirus

Governor Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist have issued a third statewide order, closing non-essential personal services.

The order goes into effect tomorrow, March 25, and extends through April 3. The order is focused on businesses where appropriate social distancing measures are not practical. The closure applies to nail salons, hair salons and barber shops; cosmetology, electrology and esthetic services; massage parlors; and tattoo, body art and piercing shops. Medically necessary services such as physical therapy providers may remain open.

“While I understand the impact and sympathize with those most affected by these measures, especially small business owners, I support Dr. Harrist’s recommendation because this is about saving lives,” Governor Gordon said. “We have tried to navigate a thoughtful course, but as COVID-19 spreads through our communities, we must take this action now.”

Dr. Harrist said, “People who are ill with COVID-19 can easily spread this disease to others to anyone nearby if they cough or sneeze. Staying away from others as much as possible helps protect all of us, including those who are most vulnerable to illness complications.”

This order supplements previous statewide orders issued March 19 and 20 closing certain public spaces and prohibiting gatherings of 10 people or more in a single room or confined space.

Residents with additional questions about any of the statewide public health orders should inquire with their county health officer.

A copy of the statewide order is attached and posted on the Governor’s website.

Enzi Urges Democrats To Quit Playing Partisan Games And Pass Coronavirus Bill

in News/Coronavirus

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to stop delaying action on a proposed coronavirus relief bill and approve the measure in the interest of small business owners and workers.

Enzi, in a speech from the Senate floor, said the $2 trillion bill is needed to protect small businesses and their employees.

“The virus has closed businesses which in turn lay off employees,” Enzi said. “It has done it in what was a strong and growing economy. Why isn’t there more concern for the employees out of work? Why haven’t we already done at least the parts of this bill that give non-government employees some comfort and hope?”

Enzi said it was time to end partisan “gamesmanship” and approve the bill immediately.

Democrats have twice blocked a procedural vote to bring the bill to a final vote in the Senate, arguing it does not do enough for the average citizen and gives corporations hundreds of millions of dollars without sufficient oversight.

But Enzi said the minority party is also holding up passage of the bill because its members are demanding provisions that would advance the causes of the Democratic Party that have nothing to do with the epidemic.

“We are not doing climate change as part of this emergency bill,” he said. “Everything should have a direct connection to the coronavirus. Rome is burning and Congress is fiddling!”

The measure originally proposed in the Senate would provide financial assistance needed to keep businesses open so they could continue to employ people, Enzi said.

He added it would also include payments for taxpayers and billions of dollars for state and local governments.

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

in News/Coronavirus

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.”

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks closed until further notice

in News/Coronavirus
Bison in Yellowstone

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are closed to all park visitors until further notice, effective immediately, a news release issued Tuesday said.

State highways and/or roads that cross park/state boundaries and lead to facilities that support life, safety and commerce will remain open. Both parks will cooperate on the implementation of the closures. Updates will be provided from both of the parks.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail in the release. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”  

The parks encouraged people to take advantage of various digital tools available to learn more about each.

4,000 People Attend Online Coronavirus Town Hall in Gillette

in News/Coronavirus

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 News/Coronavirus

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.

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