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Devils Tower Shuts Down

in Coronavirus/News
3606

The National Park Service Announced late Wednesday that Devils Tower will be closed until further notice.

“Effective immediately, Devils Tower National Monument is closed to all park visitors until further notice,” the Park Service said in a release. “There will be no visitor access permitted. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.”

The Park Service said the closure is due to a request of local public health officers from Crook County, WY.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority,” the release reads. “The National Park Service (NPS) is working with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Park Service said they would notify the public when they resume full operations and will provide updates on their website and social media channels.

In the meantime, updates about NPS operations will be posted here: http://www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Coronavirus Cases Set At 49 In Wyoming

in Coronavirus/News
3609

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.

Gov. Gordon Urges Residents to Stay Home to Prevent Virus Spreading

in Coronavirus/News
3597

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The only way Wyoming residents will be able to avoid further restrictions on their actions will be to comply with the three orders now in place designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.

Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said the state orders closing businesses and prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people have all been issued only after careful consideration.

“We are not trying to shut down Wyoming,” he said. “But your voluntary action and discipline will make the difference on whether we can slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to emphasize the orders we put in place are only effective if you take them seriously.”

Wyoming’s coronavirus case count on Wednesday stood at 44 and the state last week issued orders closing all business where more than 10 people are likely to gather, such as bars, theaters and fitness clubs. Also last week, the state prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people. 

On Tuesday, Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, ordered the closure of businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors.Gordon said the best reason to limit the spread of the virus is to avoid overwhelming Wyoming’s health care providers.

“We want to make sure that should this crisis come in greater detail … that we have adequate hospital facilities,” he said. “It’s not just coronavirus that we are worried about this. If our hospitals are filled and somebody breaks a leg, you will not be able to be taken to a hospital.”

Mike Ceballos, director of the Wyoming Department of Health, echoed Gordon’s sentiments.

“We need to take this seriously,” he said. “The reason we issued these three orders is so we potentially and hopefully don’t need to take more draconian measures.”

Ceballos was one of several state officials who joined Gordon in the news conference to discuss what their agencies have been doing in response to the coronavirus. He said the state Public Health Laboratory has increased its coronavirus testing capacity by tenfold and has sent more than 2,500 sample collection kits to health care providers around the state.

Also attending the news conference was First Lady Jennie Gordon, whose Wyoming Hunger Initiative has created a task force of organizations that exist to address hunger in the state. Jennie Gordon said because of the task force’s work, the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies will be organizing mobile food pantries that will travel to different towns around Wyoming to offer assistance.

With business closures contributing to higher unemployment rates, Robin Cooley, director of the state’s Division of Workforce Services, said her agency has added 15 people to its claims processing center to keep up with the number of claims coming in.

“We are seeing more than the usual number of people seeking unemployment assistance,” she said. “Our unemployment insurance staff is keeping up with that demand. Those filing claims can expect to see benefits within two days of filing them.”

Cooley said the state is also looking into ways to keep workers on their jobs in the private sector through the use of federal dollars. She said as an example, federal money might be used to help employers buy computers to allow their workers to do their jobs from home.

The governor said the state is doing all it can to make sure Wyoming residents remain healthy and the state’s economy survives the pandemic, however, he said residents must do their part as well.

“It requires commitment from all of you to stay at home and be willing to sacrifice in the short term,” he said. “We must be honest about the enormity of this public challenge facing us and respond to it.”

Smart Yellowstone Reporter – Unlike Idiot Tourists – Leaves Bison Alone

in News/Tourism/wildlife
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We’ve seen the videos many, many times. Tourists come to Yellowstone and attempt to pet bison.

The result? Oftentimes, not good.

Deion Broxton, from KTVM TV in Bozeman, Montana, did the right thing. He saw a herd of bison coming his way and bailed out.

“Oh my God,” he muttered while carefully observing the approaching herd.

“I ain’t messing with you,” he said moments later, while walking off-camera and to his car.

“Oh, no,” he continued while packing his car with his gear. “Oh no, I ain’t messing with you.”

His actions got him praise from the official Yellowstone Twitter account.

“A perfect example of what to do when approached by wildlife! Rolling on the floor laughing Thanks Deion for putting the #YellowstonePledge into action!” they tweeted.

As for that herd of bison, those were some serious animals. Once he got to a safe location, he shot a quick video of them.

F.E. Warren Air Force Base Implementing HPCON Charlie Due to Coronavirus

in Coronavirus/military/News
An upgrade to F.E. Warren's nuclear missile systems could mean billions for SE Wyoming
3596

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

F.E. Warren Air Force Base announced Wednesday that it increased the number of restrictions in place to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Base officials, in a news release, announced the base is now under “Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie.”

“We have to take the necessary actions to ensure we protect our mission,” 90th Missile Wing commander Col. Peter Bonetti said in the. “We are working closely with our regional, state and county officials to help the spread of the coronavirus in our community.”

The requirements of HPCON Charlie must be followed by all base service members, Department of Defense civilians, contractor employees and family members.

These measure include: restricted base access for non-essential visitors, no access for non-Department of Defense ID cardholders and limited access to the base for retirees and veterans. The latter group can access the base on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4:30 p.m. They will be permitted access to the commissary, the base exchange and the medical clinic.

Veterans and retirees picking up prescriptions on the base are asked to use the tent adjacent to the medical clinic. Directional signs will be posted.

Gate access has also been adjusted during this time. Gate One (located on Randall Avenue) is closed. Gate Two on Missile Drive is open for normal 24-hour operations. Gate Five on Central Avenue is currently open to commercial traffic only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming Commits $1M to Support Coronavirus Relief

in Coronavirus/News
3594

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Episcopal Churches are committing $1 million in support of Wyoming relief efforts for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming held an emergency meeting, where members of the board of directors of diocese’s foundation agreed to the donation.

Guidelines for the distribution of relief dollars haven’t yet been drafted. But the board unanimously voted to allocate funding, citing Jesus’ teaching to love one’s neighbors.

Wyoming Episcopalians are currently busy serving their communities by checking in on their neighbors, providing food and financial resources to local food banks and other agencies, as well as holding virtual prayer services. The virus has halted weekly worship across the state.

“The Diocese of Wyoming is committed to serving the people of this state and beyond,” the Rev. John Smylie, Bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming, said in a news release. “We’ve been providing nurture and care in the name of a loving God across the region for more than 100 years. It’s our duty and privilege now to step up in this way.”

The board plans to host weekly meetings to determine the needs of the community. The last conversation touched on support for front line workers, health care professionals and support staff, those who have lost their jobs because of the illness, issues related to hunger and support for local parishes and missions.

“Episcopalians in Wyoming are Monday-Saturday followers of Jesus who happen to get together on Sundays,” said the Rev. Jimmy Bartz, board member and rector of St. John’s in Jackson. “We’re already working hard seven days a week to dream of ways we can make a love-spreading difference in the lives of those negatively impacted by this crisis. It’s our hope that other dioceses across the country will create ways to generously and faithfully support their communities.”

Those wishing to add to this support effort may make a gift to the Episcopal Foundation for the Diocese of Wyoming designated for coronavirus relief.

Campbell County’s Patient With Coronavirus Describes What It’s Like

in Coronavirus/News
3584

Reprinted with permission from our friends at County 17

Campbell County’s first and only documented case of coronavirus says she’s “fine,” encourages community to stay home to slow the spread

“So, I’m the lone COVID-19 patient who has tested positive in Campbell County,” the Gillette wife and working mom told County 17, light-heartedly, via Facebook messenger Monday afternoon.

“Yep, that’s me,” she said.

In a candid 20-minute phone conversation that followed, the county resident revealed she wished to remain anonymous for the sake of her family and friends but felt compelled to share her experience with the virus over the past week and share her story.

“I kinda figured I’d speak out in an effort to maybe calm everyone down,” she said. “I know people are freaking out.”

There are some things she’d like the community to know about what it’s like to have the virus, and what’s important.

“I’m fine, really,” she began.

It started with a runny nose last Monday, she said.

Last Tuesday, on St. Patrick’s Day, she developed a cough and a low temperature.

“I thought I had a chest cold,” she said. “So, I decided to take off work and go to the doctor.”

The family’s physician tested her for flu. Negative.

Next, she was tested for RSV, a common respiratory virus. Also negative.

Last, the doctor said they’d be testing her for COVID-19.

She knew about the novel coronavirus, obviously. She’d read about the crisis in Wuhan, China online. She’d heard about cases in the U.S. and in Wyoming.

“I didn’t think I was going to test positive,” she said. “In fact, I can remember thinking the doctor was wasting a test. I hadn’t been out of the country. I hadn’t even been out of the state recently. I was just going to the doctors to see what could be done to treat the symptoms for my cold.”

She said she wasn’t really worried about the test results, but the family doctor, who she trusted, told her to stay at the house until they got the results back on Friday.

Thankfully, she followed her doctor’s orders and stayed home.

The doctor’s office called her early Friday afternoon to share her test results.

“They told me I had tested positive for coronavirus,” she said. “I denied it. I said, no. I don’t know. It’s not. Is it?” she recalled. She mostly remembers asking the voice on the other end of the line, “Now what?”

She’s going to have to isolate herself in her home away from family, the voice told her. “And the State (Health) Department is going to call and ask a bunch of questions including which people you’ve come into contact with outside of your family since Monday.”

Then, they hung up.

She tried to remember everyone she’d been in contact with. There were probably three or four people outside of her family and coworkers she had encountered, she thought.

Before she could even write the names down, she received a call from the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

“They were very nice,” she recalled. They took down the names and made contact with those people, she said. They would likely be asked if they had experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing, and those who had displayed symptoms would likely get tested. To her knowledge, none did.

To prevent the spread of the virus in her home, she said the family has been using Clorox wipes and spray disinfectants nonstop. She wears a mask whenever she leaves the bedroom, which isn’t often, she admitted, and always uses the same plate, fork and cup before placing them directly in the dishwasher, which gets up to temperatures hot enough to kill the virus.

“We keep six feet away at all times,” she said.

Since contracting COVID-19, she said her husband has been on his A-game. Her mom and mother-in-law have been taking turns bringing groceries and arts and crafts to the doorstep, where they drop them off. “They’re mostly bringing things to help keep the kids fed and busy,” she laughed. “But some of the crafty things have been kinda cool.”

“The kids and I have to speak through the bedroom door,” she said. “My husband, too. Even the dogs, since they don’t know yet too much about if it can transfer from humans to pets and we don’t want to risk it. We love our pets.”

She paused, presumably thinking of the experience as a whole.

“I might be able to go back out into the public on Thursday,” she said optimistically. “But, we’ll have to wait and see. The state of Wyoming actually has an order out on all of us – the 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide – so, we will all need permission first before reentering society.”

Per protocol, a patient who tests positive for COVID-19 must be cleared by the WDH.

“I have had a really bad cough and runny nose and a slight fever,” she told County 17 when asked about her symptoms. “But, for the most part, I’m fine, really.”

She continued, “I don’t have any underlying health issues beyond asthma and I’m not struggling to beat the virus even with that,” she said. “I’ve been taking oral steroids and Tylenol. That’s it.”

Next, she asked that we assure our readers she has not left home. She added that she did not go to any local stores or restaurants when she was not feeling well.

“Tell everyone I didn’t go to out… I didn’t do anything,” she said. “Let people know I’m not out infecting!”

Although the illness hasn’t been anything major for her, specifically, she said, “If everybody just spent some time with their families right now and stayed home for the recommended 15 days, or more, I think a lot of the virus will kinda weed its way out of the community and we’d all be better off.”

Stay home with your families, she stressed, repeatedly.

“COVID-19 has brought our family closer together,” she said. “Let it do the same for yours.”

As states including Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest to announce statewide stay-at-home orders on Sunday resulting from the toll of the coronavirus outbreak, which grew to more than 31,000 cases and 390 deaths in the U.S. last week, and quickly, Campbell County’s only reported case, although experiencing just minor symptoms herself, urged members of the community to heed the advice and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Wyoming Department of Health among others.

“Stay at home,” she said. “Self-isolate, whenever possible, and limit your regular activities and social gatherings. Do your part to reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the virus.”

She still can’t quite figure out how she contracted the virus, she said. Although, she admitted, she had traveled to Sheridan for an appointment on or around the week of Monday, March 9.

As of today, Tuesday, March 24, at 7:45 a.m., she remains the only patient reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 in Campbell County.

To date, 29 people in Wyoming have tested positive for COVID-19 across eight counties, including Fremont, Laramie, Sheridan, Teton, Carbon, Natrona and Campbell counties, per WHD.

“Quarantine isn’t much fun, but I would much rather be in quarantine at home and know that I’m not exposing anyone else to this — and I’m doing my part to help stop the spread of the virus,” she added. “I know not everyone else who has tested positive has been so lucky.”

Wyoming Residents Have 90-Day Window to Renew Expired Licenses

in Coronavirus/News/Transportation
Gov Gordon Budget
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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 Business/Coronavirus/News
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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.

Governor Closes Down More Small Business Due to Coronavirus

in Coronavirus/News
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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.

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