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Mullen Fire At 81% Containment, Snow Should Help

in Mullen Fire/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While the Mullen Fire is at 81% containment, the work to subdue the fire isn’t completely done, so crews will spend the weekend monitoring hot spots and repairing damage from fire suppression efforts over the last month.

Andrew Gray, public information officer for the fire, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that he doesn’t see the fire growing again in size, but that suppression wouldn’t be completed until there was a “season-ending snow event.”

However, snow fell in the area Thursday night and is expected to continue falling through the weekend in southeastern Wyoming, helping move the fire closer to being extinguished, he said.

“The fire is certainly winding down,” Gray said. “We do want to remind people that there will still be smoke and small fires seen in the area as we continue to work on suppression, containment and cleanup efforts.”

Some of the cleanup efforts will include running downed limbs and trees through a woodchipper and repairing fences and ruts in yards or roads.

The 1,400 or so Wyoming and Colorado residents who had to leave their homes or property due to the Mullen Fire have been allowed to return, although they are being urged to be ready should evacuation be necessary again. There is still a National Forest closure notice in effect, though.

According to fire tracking website InciWeb, around 385 people are now working to combat the fire.

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Cheyenne Frontier Days, Other Locals Orgs Work To Help Victims Of Colorado Wildfires

in Good news/News/wildfire

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of organizations in Cheyenne are working together to help people in Colorado who have been displaced by wildfires.

Currently, there are eight wildfires burning across the state, but the two affecting northern Colorado are the Cameron Peak Fire (which has recently been declared as the largest in the state’s history) and the East Troublesome Fire.

The East Troublesome Fire has only popped up within the last week, but on Thursday, it forced the evacuation of much of the town of Estes Park. More evacuation notices are expected coming, as the fire is only at 5% containment.

But Cheyenne organizations, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, are offering up their services and help to those in need.

CFD CEO Tom Hirsig told Cowboy State Daily that the rodeo organization is offering up its grounds to anyone who needs to store their horses or livestock because of evacuation.

“We have things we can offer these people, so why not do it?” Hirsig said. “It’s already devastating enough that these people might lose their homes, but these poor animals have got to be terrified.”

CFD even posted the notice to its Facebook page, letting anyone know they could call 307-778-7263 for more information.

The offer is not unprecedented for CFD, as Hirsig noted that the rodeo has always been willing to offer up its stalls or corrals to farmers, ranchers or a cowboy/girl in need, but he said the offers have never reached this scale.

Currently, no one from Colorado has had to bring their animals to Cheyenne just yet (thanks to many of the northern Colorado livestock boards, who have been helping in the interim), but Hirsig hopes that people will take advantage of the opportunity, should it be needed.

“Cheyenne Frontier Days was founded on helping our community, and our community is bigger than just Cheyenne,” he said. “I think many organizations get caught up chasing the almighty dollar, but this just shows that things can be taken away in an instant. It’s a time in our world where we can see the good in people.”

Visit Cheyenne has also partnered with many of the hotels in the city to offer heavily discounted rates to those displaced by the fires.

The organization currently has a list of hotels and their discounted rates for wildfire victims, which will be updated.

“We are all praying for your safety and Cheyenne is willing to help in any way we can,” Visit Cheyenne wrote in a tweet.

Some of the firefighters from Laramie County Fire District No. 2 have been traveling to Loveland to help staff the fire station and give their Colorado colleagues a much-needed break, according to 9News from Denver.

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University Of Wyoming To Offer Mix Of In-Person/Online Classes For Spring Semester

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has announced its spring semester will continue to see a mix of in-person, hybrid and online classes in the face of what is expected to be continued coronavirus activity in the new calendar year.

The university of Friday released its plans for the spring semester, which look much like the plans for the fall esemester.

In addition to the mix of class offerings, plans also call for a continuation of measures to limit the spread of the virus, such as requiring face protection and physical distancing and limiting the number of gatherings and the amount of people at them held at the university.

“Our team has put significant effort into planning for the coming spring semester, just as we did before the fall. As the pandemic is rapidly evolving, much could change between now and January but, at this point, it appears that the spring semester will look very much like the current fall semester,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “I wish we could be more definitive in telling our students what to expect. But we feel it’s important to lay out a general plan for the spring now, recognizing that we must be prepared to adjust quickly to new developments, as has been the case this fall.”

Classes will begin Jan. 25, a week later than originally planned. To minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, spring break has been eliminated next semester.

“We recognize that, from a mental well-being standpoint, a three-day weekend isn’t the same as a weeklong spring break,” Interim Provost Anne Alexander says. “However, it appears likely that the pandemic situation in the spring will be similar to the present. Like many other universities across the country, we believe this schedule change is a prudent move to help preserve our on-campus experience.”

Close to 40% of UW courses are slated to be delivered online. Around 60% of classes will have some type of in-person component.

UW is now requiring all students who spend time on campus to be tested for the coronavirus twice a week. Employees on campus who aren’t able to maintain physical distance are being tested once per week.

While the exact testing regimen has not been finalized for the spring, the university remains committed to testing, tracing and quarantine/isolation to limit the spread of the virus.

“We all hope that a vaccine will become available soon and that the pandemic will subside, but we must prepare to at least start the spring semester under circumstances that are similar to the present,” Seidel said. “We hope that providing this general outline now will help our students and prospective students make decisions, recognizing that the situation remains very fluid and that things could change before Jan. 25.”

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Model Predicts 151 Deaths In Wyoming From Coronavirus By February

in Coronavirus/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

If the spread of the coronavirus continues in Wyoming at the same rate seen now, the illness will result in 151 deaths by February, according to a University of Washington computer model.

However, the toll would drop to 82 if the use of face masks in the state more than doubled from current levels, according to the model from the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

In April, the same model predicted that by August, 143 people Wyoming residents would die from the illness.

As of Friday, the deaths of 68 Wyoming residents have been associated with the coronavirus. At the end of August, the number stood at 41.

The institute has run computer models regularly since the coronavirus first reached the United States. The Wyoming Department of Health has made no statement on the model’s conclusions.

The latest model predicts that if face mask use remains at current levels of about 40%, the state will see about one death per day from coronavirus by late December and two per day by late January to total 151 deaths by Feb. 1.

However, if mask use rises to 95% — considered to be “universal” mask use — the state will see only 14 new deaths to total 82 by February, the model showed.

The number of reports of new coronavirus infections will rise to almost 313 per day by Feb. 1 with no changes in mask use, but will be limited to 29 per day if 95% of the state’s residents use face masks, according to the model.

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Barrasso, Enzi Praise Amy Coney Barrett, Agree They Will Confirm Her

in News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi are voicing support for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, saying she is the best choice to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the court.

The two Republicans joined their colleague U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in praising Barrett’s judicial efforts, although Cheney, as a member of the U.S. House, can’t vote to confirm the judge.

Barrasso spoke on the U.S. Senate floor this week to say Republicans need to confirm Barrett to the court despite what he described as “false attacks and scare tactics” from Senate Democrats.

“I’ll tell you, she’s terrific, so impressive, so exceptionally well-qualified to take on this new responsibility,” Barrasso said. “The partisanship that she has faced from Democrats, it’s predictably backfired on them, certainly by the American people who say get her confirmed, put her on the Supreme Court.”

Barrasso drove his point home by saying Barrett’s confirmation was an important moment in history, and that she was ready to serve the nation and apply the law instead of using politics to make judicial decisions.

He criticized the questions for Barrett from Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying the hearing on Barrett’s confirmation turned into a “partisan infomercial on Obamacare,” then going on to critique the Affordable Care Act.

“Judge Barrett has been clear. She has no agenda, for any case. As a judge, she considers each case on the merits,” Barrasso said. “The Senate will vote, the Senate will confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court.”

Enzi was much more brief in his comments, issuing a statement this week on his thoughts on Barrett and her confirmation. Enzi voted to confirm Barrett to the District of Columbia Circuit Court in 2017.

“After meeting with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is well qualified to be a member of the Supreme Court,” he said. “We had a great conversation that included issues important to Wyoming. She is a remarkable judge and legal scholar with impressive credentials, and I look forward to supporting her nomination.”

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Gordon Allocating CARES Funds To Help With Wyoming Insurance Enrollment

in Health care/Mark Gordon/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday that he is directing federal CARES funds to assist Wyoming residents in signing up for health insurance this fall.

Gordon is allocating $600,000 to be used for the Enroll Wyoming program, which will be used to hire trained enrollment counselors to provide outreach, education and assistance. This will also ensure Wyomingites are made aware of the upcoming open enrollment period for insurance coverage (Nov. 1 – Dec. 15).

“Wyoming is facing increased numbers of uninsured residents as a result of the pandemic,” Gordon said. “This assistance is an important resource for those seeking health insurance during these challenging times.”

The enrollment counselors will work with community partners, such as libraries, community colleges, workforce centers, public health nursing offices and more, to identify individuals who need assistance enrolling in the federal insurance marketplace.

The Enroll Wyoming program is a collaborative effort between Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s Institute for Population Health, the Wyoming Primary Care Association, which operates the statewide community health centers, and Wyoming 2-1-1.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, federal funding for the Enroll Wyoming program in Wyoming has been cut by 83%.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to help meet the increased need for health insurance during this pandemic by building on our efforts over the last seven years of providing enrollment services,” Amy Spieker, CRMC’s director of community health and analysis, said. “Enroll Wyoming is an excellent example of how Wyoming organizations come together to care for our neighbors during tough times.”

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Forrest Fenn Treasure Hunter Indicted For Damaging Yellowstone Cemetery

in Crime/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who was on the hunt for the treasure chest buried by the late Forrest Fenn was indicted last month for damage he caused to Yellowstone National Park.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, was found digging in the historic Fort Yellowstone Cemetery and was indicted on Sept. 16 on charges of excavating or trafficking in archeological resources and injury or depredation to U.S. property, according to a release from Yellowstone on Thursday.

He claimed he was looking for Fenn’s treasure, a chest containing gold and jewels the author buried in 2010 that supposedly found earlier this year in Wyoming. The lucky finder has still not been identified. Fenn died this year, after the treasure was found.

The treasure was found in early June after more than 10 years of being hidden. A previous report only said that the treasure finder was an anonymous man from “back East” who sent Fenn a picture of the chest to prove he actually found it.

poem in Fenn’s book “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” included nine clues on where to find the treasure. Fenn said the treasure was contained in a 12th-century bronze chest that weighed 20 pounds by itself and was filled with 22 pounds of gold coins, gold nuggets and other valuables.

At least four people died in search of Fenn’s treasure over the years.

The first count of the indictment alleged Craythorn knowingly and unlawfully excavated, removed, damaged, altered and defaced and attempted to deface archeological resource in the cemetery between Oct. 1, 2019 and May 24.

The second count charged Craythorn with willfully damaging and committing depredation against property belonging to the U.S.

Craythorn appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to the two charges. His trial is set for December.

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Cheney: Amy Coney Barrett Has “Blown Away Every Democrat Who’s Tried To Trip Her Up”

in Coronavirus/News

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Although U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney won’t be voting for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett — because the proceedings occur in the U.S. Senate — she is a big supporter.

Appearing on the Fox News radio program “The Guy Benson Show” on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the nomination of Barrett, Cheney explained why she supports the nominee.

“I have just been — every moment that I’ve been able to tune in and watch — so proud and so impressed with Judge Barrett,” Cheney said. “She’s such a lesson in calm competence.”

Cheney said Barrett’s answers on the role of the judiciary, why it’s important for judges to follow the rule of law, and the responsibilities of a judge should be watched by every American.

Cheney said she was impressed with how Barrett held up to the “partisan attacks on her” by Democrats who want to put judges on the court to make law instead of interpret existing law.

“She really understands the role of a judge and of justices,” Cheney said.  “And I’ve just been so impressed at how she has blown away every single Democrat who’s tried to trip her up.”

The final Senate confirmation vote is expected to occur the week of Oct. 26, days before the election.

Rep. Liz Cheney Supports Confirmation Of Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Judge Barrett proved during last week’s hearings that she is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. She should be confirmed and will be a tremendous justice, protecting our Constitution and the rule of law. #FillTheSeat

Posted by Rep. Liz Cheney on Thursday, October 22, 2020

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Woman Injured After Jeep Plunges Down Cliff Is Improving

in News

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The footage from the Jeep accident on Black Bear Pass near Telluride, Colorado, is shocking.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, a Jeep with a passenger and two dogs plummeted down the mountainside earlier this month and the events were captured on another vehicle’s dash cam.

End over end the Jeep flipped right in front of the other vehicle on a road that few would dare to traverse.

And it was all captured on video.

Amazingly, the passenger — Suzie Rhodes — and her dogs survived. They were ejected from the vehicle.

The driver wasn’t injured, according to media reports, as he was outside the vehicle attempting to help another car on the very narrow pass when the Jeep began to roll down the mountain.

The Durango Herald reports that the driver “told authorities he shut off the Jeep’s engine, applied the emergency brake then stepped out of the vehicle to help a driver behind him around a tight turn.”

“The Jeep, however, started to roll with the 23-year-old woman and two dogs inside and went off Black Bear Pass, rolling several times. The woman and dogs were ejected from the vehicle.”

A GoFundMe page has been set-up to help with the woman’s medical bills. 

The organizer of the page, Zoe Faller, said doctors estimate that Rhodes has “two years of extensive rehabilitation” in front of her.

“Suzie is such an amazing strong woman. She is working daily on her progress. She is now able to sit up in her wheelchair and was outside a couple days ago to see her beloved black lab puppy Decker,” she wrote.

“She is such a fighter. Please continue to keep her in your prayers,” she said.

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Record Number Of Hospitalizations As Active Coronavirus Cases Climb

in Coronavirus/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Editor’s Note: This is a map of the active coronavirus cases in each county across Wyoming. The number of active cases is determined by subtracting the total number of recoveries seen since the illness first reached Wyoming in mid-March from the total number of confirmed and probable cases diagnosed during the same time period and taking into account deaths related to the disease.

The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming increased again Thursday, climbing by 114 as the number of people hospitalized for treatment of the illness reached a record.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus report, said 232 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 39 new probable cases were reported Thursday.

At the same time, the number of recoveries reported to the department increased by 150 on Thursday, leaving the state with 2,831 active cases, an increase of 114 from Wednesday.

Albany County had 443 active cases Thursday; Laramie County had 423; Natrona County had 387; Fremont had 260; Campbell had 258; Park had 201; Sheridan had 198; Converse had 73; Lincoln had 69; Big Horn had 66; Platte had 64; Weston had 59; Carbon had 51; Goshen and Sweetwater had 48; Teton had 43; Uinta had 35; Crook had 32; Washakie had 25; Johnson had 21; Sublette had 20; Hot Springs had five, and Niobrara had two.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed cases were reported in 20 counties, with Fremont County seeing the highest number of new cases, 39.

The new confirmed cases brought the total seen since the first case was diagnosed in Wyoming in mid-March to 8,537.

The number of probable cases seen since mid-March increased to 1,582 on Thursday with the reporting of 39 new cases. A probable case is one where a patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, but has not been tested for the illness.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized for coronavirus treatment reached a record of 81 Thursday, an increase of three from Wednesday and of 10 since Monday.

Department of Health figures received from hospitals around the state showed that as of Thursday, 73 of the state’s 123 intensive care unit rooms remained open.

However, figures from individual hospitals show the available space in ICU rooms is beginning to run low. In the Campbell County Memorial Hospital, six of the seven ICU rooms are occupied. At Cody Regional Health, which as six ICU rooms, only one is vacant. 

At Memorial Hospital of Converse County and Powell Valley Healthcare, which each have two ICU rooms, only one of the rooms is available at each facility.

The state’s largest hospital, Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, has 14 ICU rooms and five are vacant. Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has seven vacancies among its 15 ICU rooms.

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