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76 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Tuesday; 88 Recoveries, 557 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming’s active coronavirus remained unchanged Tuesday from Monday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 88 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 76 new laboratory-confirmed and 21 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 557 active cases, the same as the total seen Monday.

Laramie County continued to lead the state in active cases with 266; Sweetwater had 42; Natrona 31; Teton 24; Carbon and Lincoln 22; Uinta 20; Albany and Campbell 19; Fremont 18; Converse 16; Platte 11; Sublette 10; Park eight; Crook five; Hot Springs, Sheridan and Weston four; Big Horn, Goshen and Johnson three; Washakie two, and Niobrara County had one.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 and probable cases brought to 63,235 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 61,918 have recovered.

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Wyoming 2nd Highest In Country For Energy Bills

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Despite being one of the country’s foremost energy producers, Wyoming ranks near the top of the list when it comes to the states with the most expensive energy. 

This has nothing to do with electricity consumption, natural gas use or even the rapidly escalating gas and diesel prices at the pump this summer. Rather, it’s the one thing residents can’t do anything about: long driving distances.

For the third year in a row, Wyoming ranks first in the nation when it comes to the highest motor-fuel consumption per driver and second for the most expensive energy costs, with an average cost of $403 per month, according to a 2021 WalletHub survey.

The survey compared the average monthly energy bills of residents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the average monthly consumption and cost of electricity, natural gas, home heating oil, average gas price and the miles traveled for the average driver.

Connecticut had the highest average energy costs, followed in second by Wyoming and Massachusetts in third place. Wyoming also came in second in 2019, though fared better in 2020, placing seventh, according to past years’ surveys.

Not surprisingly, the Cowboy State also topped the list for the most money spent per month on fuel at $246 per month. Conversely, the state ranked 36th for the cheapest electricity at an average of $115 per month. 

Alabama ranked first for high electricity costs at $181 per month, while the most expensive monthly natural gas bill was found in New York at $68, compared to $41 in Wyoming.

As for fueling up vehicles, the worst place to do this is in California, Hawaii and Nevada, which had the highest motor-fuel prices, respectively, according to the survey.

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Wyoming Road Construction Update: No Holiday For Road Construction

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The Fourth of July holiday weekend may be coming up, but road construction knows no holidays — so be prepared for delays and stopped traffic across the state during your weekend travels.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation’s road condition website shows that dozens of construction projects with the potential to slow and stop traffic are still underway around the state.

On Interstate 80, delays are expected east of Cheyenne thanks to a bridge rehabilitation project, and between Cheyenne and Laramie because of pavement marking projects. Construction projects will reduce travel to one lane west of Laramie, while delays are also expected near Elk Mountain.

On Interstate 25, delays are expected south of Cheyenne because of a bridge rehabilitation project. Similar work will also delay traffic south of Douglas and near Casper. Paving on the interstate near Kaycee could also result in 20-minute delays, the department said.

On Interstate 90, bridge repairs east of Moorcroft could lead to travel delays.

A number of projects are also underway on state and federal highways. Work causing delays in travel can be expected in the following areas:

Wyoming Highway 296 northwest of Cody, expect delays;

Wyoming Highway 120 north of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes;

Wyoming Highway 120 south of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic; 

U.S. Highway 14/16/20 north of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 14A between Cody and Powell, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 14A near Byron, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 310/Wyoming Highway 789 near Cowley, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 14A/310/Wyoming Highway 789 northeast of Powell, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 16/20/Wyoming Highway 789 north of Worland, delays of up to 15 minutes;

U.S. Highway 26/287 near Moran Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 26/287 between Moran Junction and Dubois, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 189/191/26/89 south of Jackson, expect delays of up to 20 minutes between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.;

U.S. Highway 189/191 southwest of Jackson, delays of up to 10 minutes;

U.S. Highway 89 between Thayne and Alpine Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 20, Wyoming Highway 789 near Shoshone, delays of up to 20 minutes;

Wyoming Highway 372/374 near Rock Springs, delays of up to 10 minutes, stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 20, Wyoming Highway 789 near Shoshone, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 287 northwest of Lander, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 20/26/87 in Casper, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 85 between Lingle and Lusk, expect delays;

Wyoming Highway 211 north of Cheyenne, expect delays, and

U.S. Highway 85 south of Cheyenne, expect delays.

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Jim Hicks: It’s Hot, But Not Hot Enough To Baptize A Cat

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

“This is August weather!”  That’s the comment we heard from under a sweat stained ball cap at the feed store this week. After Monday and Tuesday’s temperatures in the triple digits, there were not too many of those “climate change deniers” giving speeches.

But at least it waited until the kids were out of school and on summer vacation.  The city pool is full and looked pretty inviting.

And baseball season is underway with a lot of local kids taking part.  Years ago there was not much in the way of youth baseball activities offered here. School got out and a lot of the kids headed for the ranch to start the summer’s work. 

But there were some years when an American Legion baseball team would be organized to compete.

And sometimes Buffalo would be blest with good young athletes who could play the game well enough to compete with teams from larger communities like Sheridan.

The Bench Sitters remember a team like that.  They didn’t have the full roster of players, but do recall Jack Swartz (who operated the airport here at that time) was coaching.

Some of the players included (and we hope we got this right) were Tony Swartz (pitching), Craig “Goose” Jones on first, Greg Smith on second, Richard Lawrence playing short-stop, Tom Ahern on third base and Ray Mader, catching. 

They were a pretty scrappy team, but almost nobody left in the dugout when they took the field. 

A little thin in the ranks.

In one game against Sheridan the competition was close.

It was a hot day and Buffalo had gone though everyone who had ever pitched.

But there was another inning to play.

They huddled with Coach Swartz to come up with a solution.

“How about having Mader give it a try?”

Now Ray (as anyone who knew him) could throw a ball HARD!

When a runner tried to steal second and Ray got ready to fire one for the “tag” several things would happen.  First the pitcher would dive and hide behind the mound and the center fielder would be ready in case the throw was a bit high.

So they made the decision and Ray took the mound for a few “warm-up” pitches.

And then he hit the next seven Sheridan batters. A few left the game.

Finally, Sheridan’s third base coach asked Tom Ahern a question.

“Is that relief pitcher’s dad a doctor?”

“No,” says Tom with a sideway’s glance. “Why did you think that?”

“Well it looks like he’s drumming up business for someone in the medical field.”

Meanwhile, after several days of hot dry wind, locals are watching the snow rapidly disappear from the tops of the peaks and green replaced by shades of tan in the hills.

Dry years can generate some interesting comments. A few we’ve heard were:

“It looks like one of those years we have to decide if we want to buy hay or sell cows.”

“This is the kind of year irrigators don’t get their feet wet.”

“The boy is only six years old. Until last year he thought hay always came on a truck.”

“So then I got the bright idea of fertilizing our dry-land hay.”

Finally this week we heard a couple of young mothers talking about a wisdom they have picked up by listening to their kids so far this summer.

“You can’t baptize cats.

“When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don’t let her brush your hair.

“Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.

“You can’t trust dogs to watch your food.

“Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.

“Don’t hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.

“You can’t hide broccoli in a glass of milk.

“The best place to be when you’re sad is Grandma’s lap.”

Stay cool, if you can, and we’ll write again next week.

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Rod Miller: Rep. Shelly Duncan Is A Profile in Political Courage

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Political courage among elected officials is so rare in these dark days of our civic life together that, when it does appear, it stands out like a comet against a night sky. Representative Shelly Duncan, of House District 5 recently gave us just that kind of display.

A few weeks ago, Rep. Duncan attended a GOP town hall in her district where she was presented with a pledge by Representative Chip Neiman, HD1, also from the Upper East Side of Wyoming. Neiman drafted the pledge and sent it to his colleagues in the Wyoming House and Senate, imploring their support.

The pledge in question solicited legislators’ commitment to vote for a bill to alter Wyoming’s election code to rectify what he perceived as problems with election integrity in the Cowboy State, specifically crossover voting and crowded GOP primaries. The impetus, of course, was the GOP gubernatorial primary of 2018, in which Governor Mark Gordon prevailed over a handful of primary opponents with less than 50% of the vote.

Elements of the Wyoming GOP have been seriously butt-hurt since that election, weeping, wailing, gnashing their teeth and promising to “find a better way” that will favor their chosen, less moderate candidates. And now, the crowded slate of hopefuls vying for Liz Cheney’s seat in Congress has them nearly apoplectic.

Enter Chip Neiman with his pledge to support a bill to do away with crossover voting and to establish a run-off election in Wyoming’s primaries. And enter political pressure brought to bear by the state and county GOP apparatus, subtle or otherwise, for Republican legislators to affix their signatures to that pledge and to prove that they are not RINOs.

Representative Duncan, feeling that pressure, reluctantly signed Neiman’s pledge. She was not the only Republican to do so. But she immediately began to have nagging doubts and second thoughts.

In the interim between the town hall and a meeting of the Joint Corporations Committee (the legislative committee responsible for Wyoming’s election code) , where Neiman hoped to present his list of signatories to the pledge, Duncan had time to consider what the pledge meant. Two things became apparent to her.

First, a pledge by a legislator for a future vote on a particular bill without the benefit of the rigorous debate among colleagues of the bill’s merits and drawbacks, and the necessary give-and-take among elected officials, binds the hands of a legislator and obviates the group genius of a representative body. A pledge like Neiman’s attempts to replace collaborative lawmaking with an edict from the Party.

Second, Rep. Duncan took time to research the legislation associated with the pledge and found it to be prohibitively expensive, impractical and likely unconstitutional. None of those facts were revealed in the pledge.

Now, here comes the lesson in political courage. At the aforementioned Joint Corporations meeting, Duncan took time publicly to rescind her support of the pledge, and to apologize to her constituents for signing something so obviously wrong. She did so with humility, and at potentially great political cost.

At the same meeting, several members of the committee also castigated Neiman for his ill-advised pledge, diplomatically and generously calling it a “freshman mistake”. Several country clerks -our frontline soldiers in elections – were also in attendance, including the clerk from Neiman’s own country and they too rapped his knuckles.

I hope that the entire Wyoming Legislature takes note of Duncan’s courageous stateswomanship, and emulates her at every opportunity. 

I also hope that Duncan’s constituents realize how their best interests are served by her kind of wisdom and courage. 

I hope they keep sending her to Cheyenne with that election certificate that she so clearly honors by, in her words, “voting the county line, not the party line”.

In these days of political darkness, black as the inside of a cow, we need to celebrate political courage when it is presented to us, and count ourselves blessed to have humble, brave Representatives like Shelly Duncan.

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Campbell County 16.6% Covid Vax Rate Way Below National Average; 28 States Above 60%

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Talayna Duran has not received the COVID-19 vaccine nor has she given it much thought. The 18-year-old Gillette resident and recent graduate from Thunder Basin High School has started to put the pandemic behind her. 

The last couple months of school saw mask requirements and other restrictions relaxed, and now, she’s not sure if she plans to get vaccinated.

“I don’t have anything against it,” she said with a shrug last Sunday from behind the reception desk at All Dimensions Fitness. “I mean, I would do it if needed or my job required it.”

Phillip Losinski was equally nonplussed about his plans to potentially get vaccinated. The 61-year-old Gillette resident said he’s a bit dubious about the conflicting data coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in general and said he’d like to wait for another six months to see if any new information arises with regard to vaccinations.

“I’d like to do a bit more research,” he said, noting that he believes he had COVID in February 2020, before the illness was officially recognized, and thinks that gives him natural antibodies against the virus. “I’d like to give it at least another six months to see if there are any negative side effects.”

Others, however, like 22-year-old Jacob Dalby have no interest in ever being vaccinated. Dalby, who questions many of the CDC guidelines and science supporting them, pointed to the stated 

98.54% survival rate for COVID-19 versus the 94% 95% efficacy rate of the vaccines in preventing the virus. 

He also questioned the safety of the vaccines and the fact that they were rushed to market under the Emergency Care Act on top of the blanket immunity granted to the pharmaceutical companies under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 to protect the companies from lawsuits in the event of adverse reactions.

All factors considered, Dalby said that neither he nor members of his family plan to get the vaccine, including his grandmother who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

These are common attitudes in Campbell County, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the state. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, only 16.66% of residents have been vaccinated, followed by 17.67% in Crook County. Conversely, Teton County has the highest number of vaccinations at over 54%.

The relatively low vaccination rate has prompted Campbell County to launch a COVID-19 vaccination campaign to build confidence in the vaccine and prompt residents to get vaccinated, according to Ivy Castleberry, public information officer for Campbell County Public Health.

Ideally, the county would like to achieve a 70% vaccination rate, Castleberry said by email Tuesday, in order to achieve community immunity.

She also noted that while the county county may be lagging when it comes too vaccinating the lower-risk population groups age 12 and older, it has seen vaccinations administered to almost 60% of the higher risk population in the county age 65 and older, with an average of 400 to 500 people getting vaccinated through CCPH each week.

“We would certainly like to see vaccination rates pick up again,” she said.

The county is still in the process of developing the campaign, Castleberry noted, and she couldn’t say whether or not it will involve similar incentives to those seen in other cities and states, most notably Colorado’s $1 Million COVID Vaccine Drawing.

Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti said the department is disappointed with the vaccination rates seen in Wyoming.

As of June 8, WDH has recorded administering 371,213 shots of the 459,535 COVID-19 vaccines doses it has received, including 222,495 of the Pfizer, 208,740 Modern and 28,300 of the single-dose Janssen vaccine, per WDH data, for a total vaccination rate of just less than 29.5%.

WDH is already running a significant multimedia marketing campaign promoting the vaccines, Deti said, but has not yet discussed offering potential incentives.

“We want everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated,” she said. “The vaccines are doing their job very well.”

Deti noted that the majority of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are occurring among those who have not been vaccinated.

She added the WDH would like to see the vaccination rate increase, although she refrained from providing a target goal. 

“There is no question we would like to see a much higher coverage percentage,” Deti said. “Without vaccination the risk of illness could remain for people and that’s what we’re focused on avoiding. So if our coverage rates remain low the risk for illnesses in Wyoming continues and that is disappointing.”

She cited issues such as the politicization of the vaccine and the relatively low level of new cases in recent weeks as threats affecting public’s perception of the need for vaccination.

“With schools and most businesses open, it may be harder for some people to see the personal need for vaccination,” Deti said.

For Dalby, it’s a lost cause, he said, reiterating his plan to not get the COVID-19 vaccination despite attempts to market it as safe and effective. To him, it’s just another misuse of taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be better spent. 

“I got the shot for the swine flu back in 2010 but got it anyway,” he said. “I don’t see any reason to do that again. And you know what they say? If the government tells you to do something, you should do the exact opposite.”

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70 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Friday; 77 Recoveries, 531 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming’s active coronavirus cases increased by four on Friday from Thursday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 77 new recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases.

At the same time, the state reported 70 new laboratory-confirmed and 10 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 531 active cases.

Laramie County continued to have the highest number of active cases at 144; Sweetwater had 84; Campbell 64; Natrona 38; Uinta 34; Albany and Sheridan 26; Fremont and Park 24; Platte 19; Teton nine; Big Horn and Johnson seven; Carbon, Goshen and Sublette four; Crook and Weston three; Converse and Lincoln two, and Hot Springs, Niobrara and Washakie had one.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 and probable cases brought to 60,623 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 59,372 have recovered.

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Wyoming Medical Society President On Vaccine Hesitancy: ‘Unnecessarily Political’

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By The Center Square, Cowboy State Daily

Wyomingites are among the most reluctant populations in the nation to take the COVID-19 vaccine. That has prompted talk of incentive programs, while some say the reasons are mostly political.

About 28% of state residents have been fully vaccinated, while about 35% have received at least the first shot.

An updated report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts 16 Wyoming counties as the most hesitant in the nation.

JJ Chen, incoming president of the Wyoming Medical Society, said hesitancy tends to fall along political lines.

“I think what may be unique in Wyoming is that we are staunchly entrenched along political lines, and unfortunately I think whether to or not to get the vaccine has really taken on an unnecessarily political line,” Chen told The Center Square.

This bears out in the stats as Teton County, one of the few counties to elect Democrats to the state legislature, is also the most vaccinated.

Former Republican President Donald Trump championed vaccines as a means to stop the virus. Trump’s administration was responsible for the vast majority of the planning accelerating vaccine development, according to former head of Operation Warp Speed Moncef Slaoui.

What would really convince Wyomingites to get off the fence is trust, according to Chen. Local figures who are trusted in their communities could sway public opinion by proclaiming the vaccines are safe.

“If you go to church and you hear your pastor tell you, ‘Hey, this vaccine is safe. I just got it. I’m doing fine. Some people may have some side effects, but you know the vast overwhelming majority of people who get the vaccine will be much better off than if they didn’t get it,’… if they heard those kind of words from a trusted individual, I think the barriers to getting vaccinated would be far less,” Chen said.

So far, none of the vaccines are fully FDA-approved. They are approved for emergency use. Chen admitted vaccine fear is legitimate considering how new it is, but Chen likens these vaccines to those developed for polio and smallpox asserting public health improved when those inoculations were accepted.

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120 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming; 524 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

With recoveries leading the way, Wyoming’s active coronavirus cases increased by 73 on Wednesday from Monday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 80 new recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases in two days.

At the same time, the state reported 120 new laboratory-confirmed and 34 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 524 active cases.

Laramie County reported the most active cases with 99; Albany and Sweetwater had 68; Campbell 62; Natrona 54; Park 33; Uinta 28; Sheridan 23; Fremont 22; Teton 14; Platte nine; Goshen eight; Carbon seven; Washakie six; Big Horn five; Lincoln four; Crook and Sublette three; Converse, Johnson and Niobrara two, and Hot Springs, and Weston had the least number of active cases, with one.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, 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 and probable cases brought to 59,376 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 58,139 have recovered.

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Afton Teen Seriously Injured In Soccer Accident

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By Tom Ninnemann, Cowboy State Daily

An Afton teenager is recovering in an Idaho hospital after suffering a serious injury when he was kicked in the head during a soccer game in Jackson.

Ethan Nelson, a Star Valley High School varsity soccer player, was taken to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho, after being kicked in the head during a game Thursday.

Reports Friday from a “GoFundMe” page established for Nelson said he was awake and responsive.

According to reports, Nelson was playing as the goalie in Star Valley’s game against Jackson. With seconds remaining in the first half, Nelson dove for the ball and was kicked in the head by another player.

Trainers for both teams provided medical assistance, as did doctors who were attending the game as spectators.

Nelson was driven to St. John’s Health in Jackson before being flown to the Idaho facility.

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