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Cheyenne Hospital Likely to Lose $10M for April Due to Coronavirus

in Business/Coronavirus/Health care/News
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The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center will likely see a loss of close to $10 million for the month of April, its CEO said in a statement Friday.

Hospitals across Wyoming have taken major financial hits during the coronavirus pandemic, due to the increased social distancing practices calling for fewer people to be in the building at one time and the cancellation or postponement of elective surgeries and other procedures.

CMMC CEO Tim Thornell said the hospital lost $1 million in March and is projecting an operating loss of close to $10 million for April.

“Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, like every other hospital in Wyoming, is certainly feeling the negative financial impact that COVID-19 is having,” Thornell said in a statement. “We are seeing about a 30% reduction in inpatient care and an upwards of 50% reduction in outpatient care.”

The hospital system is managing the situation, but Thornell noted that these losses aren’t sustainable in the long term. To address funding shortfalls, CRMC is using financial reserves to supplement current operations, which means major capital projects have been placed on hold to divert funds to daily operations.

There is also a hiring freeze in place at the hospital and overtime is being limited. Reduced hours have been implemented for select non-urgent service lines.

“Our volumes are down in all areas,” Thornell said. “We have a strong and dedicated staff that continues to provide the best possible care to our community during these challenging times.”

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Wyoming Hospitals Take Extra Precautions to Prevent Coronavirus Spread

in Coronavirus/Health care/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Hospitals across Wyoming have taken numerous precautions to limit the possible spread of the coronavirus in their establishments and in their communities. 

Since the patients and staff are at such high risk for transmission, hospital managers are putting new rules in place for the interim to keep everyone safe, patients, staff and visitors alike. 

Here is a look at what rules hospitals in Wyoming have implemented regarding the virus: 

Albany County

Ivinson Hospital: If anyone in the county is experiencing flu-like symptoms, including a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, a cough or shortness of breath, they should call the nurse triage line at 307-755-4750 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Certain entrances are limited to patients and the public, which can be found here. 

Visitor restrictions have been implemented, now limited to 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. Patients can’t have more than one visitor in a 24-hour span. No one under the age of 16 can visit the hospital except for treatment. Visitors with cold or flu symptoms are asked to refrain from visiting a patient. 

Certain services have been reduced or postponed at the hospital These include elective surgeries, which are suspended until further notice. The hospital is reducing non-emergency outpatient services, as is the Meredith and Jeannie Ray Cancer Center. The gift shop operation hours will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Big Horn County

North Big Horn Hospital District: Sick visitors are restricted from visiting, as are children under 18 in most areas of the hospital. 

All staff, patients and visitors are screened for the virus prior to entering the facility. If someone believes they’re experiencing symptoms of the virus, they’re asked to call the hospital ahead of time so staff can prepare for the patient’s arrival. 

Certain entrances are limited to patients and the public. 

New Horizons Care Center isn’t allowing visitors at this time. 

Campbell County

Campbell County Memorial Hospital: The hospital is currently closed to all visitors except one parent of pediatric patients and one support person for anyone giving birth. All patients are required to undergo a respiratory health screening with a temperature check. No visitors under 18 are allowed in the hospital. 

The hospital has also closed certain departments, including cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, outpatient respiratory therapy and surgery. The only surgeries that will be done are emergency cases and those deemed medically necessary. One support person will be allowed in the hospital for those having surgery, following a health screening.

Access to certain entrances is limited to patients and the public. The Heptner Cancer Center is open for regular business hours for dialysis and oncology patients only. The pediatric clinic is canceling all non-essential appointments. 

The Close to Home Hospice and Hospitality House will require all visitors to be screened for respiratory symptoms. The Powder River Surgery Center is closed. No visitors are allowed at the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center. All employees and select volunteers will be screened for respiratory symptoms. Powder River Orthopedics and Spine is open and seeing limited patients. 

The wellness daily community blood draws, lab tests and health and wellness screenings have been discontinued until further notice. 

Carbon County

Memorial Hospital of Carbon County: The hospital is screening all patients, staff and visitors when they enter the facility, including asking a series of questions and conducting a temperature check. 

Only patients in critical condition and women in active labor will be allowed a visitor. No children under the age of 18 will be allowed in the hospital except for medical care. No visitors are allowed in the common areas, such as the waiting rooms and lounges. 

The hospital can only be entered through the main lobby or the emergency room. All non-urgent or elective surgeries are postponed. 

Converse County

Memorial Hospital of Converse County: Elective surgeries are postponed until further notice. Primary care providers are canceling or rescheduling all non-urgent appointments, however all of the clinics are still open. Patients will be asked a series of questions before being allowed into the buildings. 

The main entrance of the hospital will be monitored from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Exterior hospital doors will be locked after hours. The Arbor Cafe and Mocha Molly’s are closed to the public. 

No visitors or guests will be allowed in the hospital. 

Fremont County

SageWest Health Care: Patients in the emergency department, inpatient units and outpatient clinics are screened for the virus. Staff treating a potential case of the virus are provided with appropriate protective equipment to help prevent exposure. Patients with symptoms of the virus are immediately provided masks to prevent exposure. 

Only pediatric, OB, outpatient surgical patients and those receiving end-of-life care will be allowed visitors. These groups may only have one healthy adult (a person over 16) as a visitor and everyone must be screened upon entering the facility. 

Goshen County

Banner Health Community Hospital: Pediatric patients can have one adult visitor with them and laboring mothers may have one support person, but all other guests are barred from teh hospital. Deliveries of gifts, care packages, flowers or anything else will not be accepted at this time. 

Banner Health has canceled elective surgeries in two other states, but not Wyoming as of press time. The hospital won’t give “fit-for-work” clearances or test for the virus for an employer. 

The main entrance and emergency room entrance remain open to the public. 

Laramie County

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center: The hospital’s visiting hours are limited from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and patients may only have one visitor during the entirety of their stay. However, patients who are admitted and screened or test positive for the coronavirus won’t be allowed visitors.

Cancer Center patients are also only allowed one visitor. Visiting hours are the same as the hospital’s. 

The Davis Hospice Center is locked at all times, but visitors will be allowed in special circumstances, such as an end-of-life event or when the visitor is essential for the patient’s well-being. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

Natrona County

Wyoming Medical Center: Medically necessary surgeries will be conducted on a case-by-case basis. The schedule is checked daily for appropriateness in order to conserve resources. 

Medically necessary exams such as echocardiograms, pulmonary function tests and stress tests are still being scheduled. All procedures are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The Sleep Lab is closed. 

The NERD Health and Wellness Center’s health coaching, acupuncture and massage appointments are canceled. Pulmonary rehabilitation is canceled until further notice. The childbirth education and breastfeeding classes are canceled, as well as in-person lactation consultations. 

Visiting hours are now from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A patient will be allowed one visitor per day, but exceptions will be made for comfort care or terminally ill patients. Pediatric parents and babies in the nursery can have both parents visit, but only one at a time. Visitors will go through a health screening before being allowed to enter.

Park County

Cody Regional Health: Pediatric patients admitted to the ER or inpatient services will be allowed one legal caregiver with them for the entirety of their stay. Maternity patients will have the same rules applied to them. Visitors aren’t allowed in the hospital otherwise. 

Health Fair lab draws have be canceled at all of CRH’s location. The orthopedics department is reduced to essential appointments only, including fractures, post-operation appointments and traumatic injuries. 

All elective procedures for radiology and cardiac catheterization procedures are canceled, except for critical diagnostic/testing procedures. Cedar Mountain Center rehab services are canceled. 

Pediatric clinic visits are reduced to only visits for newborns up to four months old. 

Certain medical practices, like internal medicine and cardiology, are reducing their hours for the time being. 

Platte County

Platte County Memorial Hospital: See entry for Banner Health Community Hospital in Goshen County. 

Sheridan County

Sheridan Memorial Hospital: Visitors aren’t allowed for most patients. Exceptions include OB patients, those coming in for surgery or an outpatient procedure, patients at the end of their life and pediatric patients, all of whom are allowed one support person. They will all be screened for illness symptoms before their visit. Patients and staff are also screened when they enter the building. 

Sweetwater County

Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County: Anyone with a fever or cough is asked to wait to go to the emergency room before contacting the nurse triage line. 

Visitors are restricted except for OB and pediatric patients, as well as those at the end of their lives. They must be the same person for the OB and pediatric patients. No children are allowed as visitors. Everyone entering the hospital will be subjected to a temperature scan. 

Teton County

St. John’s Health: Patients can have only one designated visitor per day, but both parents can visit if the patient is a child. No one under 18 or displaying flu-like symptoms is allowed to visit. Everyone entering the hospital must wash their hands or use a sanitizer with a 60% alcohol base before entering. 

Emergency department patients can’t have visitors except one parent for a child or one caregiver for a patient who needs help communicating. 

The St. John’s Living Center is restricting all visitors except in the case of an end of life situation. It’s canceling all communal dining and group activities, both internally and externally. All staff are screened for fever and respiratory symptoms at the beginning of their shift. Residents are also being screened. 

The hospital can’t currently clear anyone to return to work after an illness. 

Uinta County

Evanston Regional Hospital: The ER is the only accessible door to patients at this time. Patients are allowed one to two visitors, but no one under 18 or displaying sickly symptoms. Everyone entering the facility will do a health screening. 

Weston County

Weston County Health Services: Visitors aren’t allowed at this time. People experiencing coronavirus symptoms are asked to call the center before arriving. 

Wyoming’s First Coronavirus Disease 2019 Case Reported

in Health care/News
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Lab testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has identified the first known case of a state resident with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the patient is an adult female from Sheridan County with some recent domestic travel history.

WDH is following up to learn more details about the person’s exposure risk and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patient. Known contacts will be monitored for symptoms and tested if needed. As is currently standard, the test result is considered to be a “presumptive positive” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will conduct further testing for confirmation.

Harrist noted the current risk of transmission in Wyoming remains low for most residents. “We expected to identify a case in Wyoming at some point because the reach of the disease is clearly growing. Travelers to certain affected locations and close contacts of ill people are still overall at the highest risk of becoming ill,” she said.

“Our state has been planning for this situation for weeks and we will continue our coordinated efforts to address this threat,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “I pledge to work closely with our state agencies, federal partners and local officials to ensure we are implementing all the necessary steps to protect public health.”

Harrist said symptoms reported with this disease are familiar: fever, cough and shortness of breath. There are many different coronaviruses, some of which cause the common cold in people and others that circulate among animals.

Experts believe COVID-19 spreads mostly between people who are in close contact and through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most ill with obvious symptoms. A person may also get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

Recommended steps that can help avoid the spread of COVID-19 or similar illness include:

· Avoid close contact with sick people.

· While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.

· Stay home if sick.

· Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

· Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.

“Travel recommendations and restrictions are also important,” Harrist said. The CDC currently recommends no nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy and no travel on cruise ships.

The CDC also says older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should consider avoiding situations with increased risk for transmission because they are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness. Examples include avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips and avoiding crowded places.

For more information about coronavirus disease 2019 and Wyoming, visit:

https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.

For more details about the disease from the CDC, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

Coronavirus Likely In Wyoming, State Preparing, Gordon Says

in Health care/News
Mark Gordon file photo
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Posted by Governor Mark Gordon on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

It appears likely that the Coronavirus will reach Wyoming eventually, so officials are making sure that the state is ready for that eventuality, Gov. Mark Gordon said Tuesday.

Gordon, in a news conference called to discuss the illness, said although no cases of Coronavirus — also called COVID-19 — have been reported in the state, officials have been working for weeks to prepare for its arrival.

“There are no reported cases in Wyoming at this time and the risk to our residents from the disease remains low,” he said. “It is becoming increasingly likely that COVID-19 will eventually spread to the state. The Department of Health and the Office of Homeland Security are coordinating state resources and planning efforts to ensure vital resources are protected should events cause a disruption.”

Gordon said officials with the state Department of Health and Office of Homeland Security have been working with their counterparts at the local level, along with private entities, to make sure all are ready should the illness surface.

“These planning efforts have been underway for weeks and will continue as the situation evolves,” he said.

Department of Health officials have been working with local hospitals to provide guidance in areas such as testing and determining risk factors for the illness. The department has also been involved in conducting assessments of hospitals around the state, he said.

The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has also been working to be able to conduct tests for Coronavirus, Gordon said, and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, said testing could take place within a week.

Harrist and Gordon both noted that since little is known about the illness, it is hard to predict how it might affect the state.

“Right now, I could only say we’re not sure exactly what is going to happen with this virus,” Harrist said. “With this virus, it is very difficult to predict the extent of the transmission that will occur and how long that transmission will occur. We need to prepare for widespread community transmission, but … efforts in the U.S. and Wyoming are underway to try to prevent that as much as possible right now.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said the state has also been working local schools to advise principals, school nurses and custodians on how to prevent the spread of the illness and deal with an outbreak should one occur.

Coronavirus can cause respiratory problems, fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Since being first reported in China, it has spread quickly. More than 100 cases have been reported in 15 states, including Nebraska.

To prevent the spread of the illness in Wyoming, Gordon recommended residents follow the same advice given by the state Department of Health to prevent the spread of the flu: avoid contact with sick people, stay at home when sick, cover the nose and mouth when coughing and wash hands often and carefully. 

More recommendations can be obtained from the Department of Health website at Health.Wyo.Gov.

Gordon closed by saying there is no reason for panic.

“I want to assure the people of Wyoming that we are taking steps to be prepared,” he said. “There is no immediate cause to be alarmed.

Bob Geha: 48-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions Approved in House

in Health care/News/politics
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By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would impose a 48-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion won final approval from the House on Friday.

HB 197 was approved on the House floor on its third and final reading by a vote of 39-17.

The bill was amended to reduce a proposed sentence of 10 years for doctors who do not observe the waiting period to one year, a $1,000 fine or both.

The change was supported by Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, who said the penalty originally proposed in the bill was too strict.

“To apply a 10-year felony provision to that when we don’t apply the same standard to a rapist is absurd,” he said.

However, other amendments that would have reimbursed women for temporary housing, meals and other expenses while waiting the 48 hours was rejected.

Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, said the amendment would have provided much needed support for women who are poor.

“I am trusting this body to say if we’re gonig to ask women to do this, we will set aside the money,” she said. “Not for all women. If you have means and you can go to Jackson, you’re on your own. But if you’re poor, then the state acknowledges your right to medical care … “

The vote sends the bill to the Senate for its review.

Medicaid Expansion in Wyoming: Supporters, Opponents Debate

in Government spending/Health care/News
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By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A plan to expand Medicaid to provide more Wyoming residents with health insurance coverage might help keep people in Wyoming, but the cost might be too much for the state to handle, speakers at a panel discussion on the idea said Thursday.

Opponents and supporters of a bill proposed by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee debated the idea during a panel discussion hosted by the Wyoming Liberty Group.

The Revenue Committee’s bill is headed to the full Legislature for its consideration during its budget session, which begins Feb. 10. Estimates indicate that the bill would allow another 19,000 Wyoming residents to qualify for coverage under Medicaid at a cost of $9 million a year to the state.

Jan Cartright, executive director of the Wyoming Primary Care Association, said the benefits would outweigh the risks of adopting the expansion plan similar to programs in place in 37 other states.

“I think this is about people’s lives and I think I will work very hard with legislators to provide common sense arguments that are based on fact that would show this is a gamble Wyoming should take,” she said.

Several legislators, however, expressed concern over the cost of the program. The total cost is estimated at $154 million every two years, with the federal government paying about $136 million of the cost, leaving the state to pay the remaining $18 million.

“Ten percent of a large number is still a large number,” said Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Sheridan. “And we don’t have that money. We are scrambling, scratching and clawing, looking under the mattress for quarters. We’re not in any position to grow our state government at all. We need to be cutting our government.”

However, Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said the expansion might help keep residents in the state in the face of declining jobs in the mineral industry.

“In the next five years alone, we’re projected to lose 1,000 more jobs,” he said. “They equate that to about 4,000 people in the state that won’t have employment. They’re probably going to be forced to move somewhere else.

“The nice thing about Medicaid expansion in that respect, they’re part of the community, they want to hold on,” he continued. “If they can have access to part-time jobs to get them through until they can find other full-time employment in the state and we can keep them here, that’s great. Once they leave, we’re not getting them back.”

But the added burden of $18 million every two years for the state Health Department could result in cuts to existing department programs, said Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne.

“I am very concerned, if our revenue picture’s the same, that we would expand Medicaid and then tell the department to find that money, $20 million a biennium, roughly, inside your agency,” she said.

However, Josh Hannes, vice president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, said the expansion would give officials in the state and the health industry to work together to develop a plan that would fit the state.

“We have an opportunity, I think, to work with our policy makers, our Department of Health, Department of Insurance, our folks at (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to create a plan that works for Wyoming,” he said.

Naomi Lopez of the Goldwater Institute warned attendees that an extra influx of federal money will not necessarily lead to improved health care.

“There are a lot of areas where you can actually improve the delivery of care at a lower cost and really break away from this idea that government spending is going to be some kind of silver bullet to what ails your health care system,” she said. “It is not. What is actually going to fix the health care system is focusing on patient-centric solutions and I think that is not what Medicaid expansion is going to provide.”

Legislative committee approves Medicaid expansion plan

in Health care/News/Taxes
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CHEYENNE — A plan to expand Medicaid coverage to about 19,000 Wyoming residents won approval from a legislative committee on Tuesday.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee voted 8-5 to send to the full Legislature a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage at a cost of about $154 million for two years. Federal funds would cover about $136 million of the cost, with the state picking up the remaining $18 million.

Supporters argued that given declines in the state’s mineral industry, residents will need the extra assistance provided by expanded Medicaid coverage.

“I think the coal bankruptcies up in the northeast have made people sit back and think a little bit differently about our economy,” said committee member Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie. “We know that people are going to lose their jobs. We know it. Every bit of information points to it.”

Marcie Kindred, a Cheyenne Democrat who plans to run for the state House of Representatives, said the state owes it to its residents to provide assistance.

“I’m really lucky that I have a network of support of people to help me get out of that cycle of poverty,” said Kincaid, a mother of four who has relied on Medicaid coverage. “But what about the people that don’t have that network of support, that don’t have that health (coverage)? We, as citizens of Wyoming, have to care for our own. We have to be that support and turn back and pull them out.”

Opponents of the measure argued that the state will have to pick up a larger share of the expense should the federal government reduce its level of support.

“The federal government does not have the money for this,” said Karl Allred, a former state representative from Evanston. “Eventually, that’s going to go away. And once you’re into it, you can’t get out really effectively. Are you going to tell people all of a sudden now that you’ve been giving them health care and now you’re going to take it away?”

Bob Wharff, a lobbyist from Evanston, agreed.

“If we become dependent and reliant upon the government to fulfill that and it falls apart, there’s no other safety net there,” he said.

The measure will be forwarded to the full Legislature for its consideration during its upcoming budget session in 2020.

Flu season open in Wyoming — get your shot!

in Health care/News
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It’s fall in Wyoming and that means the Wyoming Health Department is issuing its annual reminder to residents to get their flu vaccine to protect themselves against the kind of severe flu season seen last year.

According to the Health Department, 23 people died from the flu during the 2018-19 flu season and hundreds were hospitalized.

Although the department isn’t predicting what kind of flu season may be in store for Wyoming in 2019-2020, it is urging everyone to get vaccinated.

“There are a lot of things about the flu we do know,” said Kim Deti, the department’s spokeswoman. “We know it’s coming every year. We know every year we’re going to see deaths, hospitalizations and illnesses. We want you to get that shot.”

Autumn is the best time of year to get a flu shot, Deti said, because it coincides with the beginning of the typical flu season, which generally runs from October through May.

“We don’t necessarily have a time frame,” she said. “But this is a great time of year to get it. We don’t want people to wait until folks around them are ill. That’s not going to help you very much.”

The vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective, Deti said, meaning if someone waits until people around them are ill, they may have waited too long.

“If you wait until people around you are sick, you may still get exposed,” she said.

In addition to preventing the flu, the vaccination can reduce the severity of influenza if someone who has received the shot gets sick anyway, Deti said.

“We’re not going to promise it’s 100 percent ironclad protection,” she said. “But it’s the best weapon we have to fight influenza.”

Being vaccinated also helps prevent the spread of flu to others, she added.

“You might be able to bounce back from the flu, but you don’t want to pass the disease on to someone else who is more vulnerable than you are,” she said. “It’s about protecting other people who have more struggles with the flu.”

The Health Department identifies people who may be particularly susceptible to the flu as young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma or diabetes and those over the age of 65.

In addition to getting the vaccine, the Health Department urges people to take precautions against spreading the flu, such as washing their hands often.

“Hand washing is extremely important, particularly with the flu and how it’s spread,” Deti said.

Health officials: Vaping no safe alternative to smoking

in Health care/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

As the number of people with reported respiratory ailments linked to vaping rises, Wyoming’s health officials are warning residents that vaping is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

“Vaping is not safe for adolescents, for young adults, for pregnant women or for anybody who is not a current smoker,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer and epidemiologist.

National reports indicate more than 1,100 people are suffering from lung illnesses related to vaping, with 23 deaths reported. In Wyoming, Harrist said two cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported.

Officials are unsure what is causing people to become sick, Harrist said.

“What we’re seeing now is an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease related to vaping,” she said. “And we’re still trying to figure out what the specific substance or device is that is causing this illness.”

Most of the people reporting the illness appear to be young adults, Harrist said.

“This certainly does seem to be something new and something different,” she said. “Because these are young, healthy people being admitted to the hospital with respiratory problems and sometimes even respiratory failure.”

Cheyenne resident Kathleen Jaure said she began vaping last year to stop smoking cigarettes. She theorized that the rise in lung ailments may be related to the rise in use of the electronic smoking devices.

“Maybe the potency is going up, that makes it more problematic,” she said. “Also, more people are doing it and so you’re going to see problems. And usually with something, it doesn’t happen overnight that there’s a problem. So I think as it goes on, then we’re starting to recognize the effects of vaping.”

Health officials report that lung ailments related to vaping display symptoms similar to those seen with the flu or pneumonia.

Ransomware attack still affecting Campbell County Health

in Health care/News
Ransomware attack
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A ransomware virus attack on Campbell County Health continued to plague its computer network, causing disruptions in service to Campbell County Hospital and connected systems on Monday. 

According to Kelly Ruiz, public information officer with the Department of Homeland Security in Cheyenne, two other institutions, both connected to Campbell County Health, were also affected by the attack. 

One was the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center in Gillette, a long-term care and short-term rehabilitation facility, Ruiz said. The other, according to Dane Joslyn, CCH public information officer, was Wright Clinic and Occupational Health, part of the Campbell County Medical Group.

Ruiz advised the public to follow common computer safeguards to defend against such virus attacks.

“There are some basic things that everyone whether it’s private industry or individuals can do … use strong passwords, don’t click on links, don’t open unknown email attachments,” she said. “Also use cyber security software, a good antivirus.”

It is unknown how the ransomware was transmitted to the CCH network. 

“It is still under investigation.” said Ruiz. “We are currently coordinating but we don’t yet know.”

Due to the ongoing criminal investigation, officials are not disclosing the nature of the ransom being demanded by the virus’ attacker. Most ransomware attacks direct the infected user to send an electronic payment through a given link before the system will be released. 

During a press conference at CCH Monday afternoon, hospital officials, affected department heads and investigators fielded questions about the attack and the investigation. 

“Our goal here is to bring in people that can help identify and go after the perpetrators,” said Leland Christensen, deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security.

Ian Swift, chair of the CCH board of directors, said work continues at the CCH despite the disruption.

“There is a sense of calm in CCH right now,” he said.

There is no estimate as to when the situation might be resolved, said Matt Sabus, information technologies director for CCH.

According to the CCH website, the county’s Emergency Medical Services, CCMH Emergency Department, Maternal Child (OB) and the CCMG Walk-in Clinic are open to assess patients and treat or transfer patients to area hospitals as appropriate.

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