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UW Survey: People Paying Less Attention To Coronavirus News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

People questioned for a statewide University of Wyoming survey are paying a little less attention to news about the coronavirus pandemic than they were when it first began.

The survey by the university Survey and Analysis Center showed that 83.9% of those questioned on May 11 are following coronavirus coverage “very closely” or “fairly closely,” a decline from the figure of 90.9% seen in late March.The number following the issue “a little closely” increased from 9% in March to 13.2% in May, while those following coverage “not at all closely” grew from 1.2% to 2.9.%.

For those following the coronavirus story, information provided by local media is more trustworthy than information provided by national news outlets, the survey said.

The survey said while 7.3% trust national news coverage “a great deal” and 6.1% trust local coverage to the same degree, 63.6% trust local news either “a great deal” or “a good amount,” while only 39.5% feel the same way about national coverage.

The percentage of people who do not trust national coverage at all was set at 30.3%, compared to 10.8% for local coverage.

On other issues, the survey showed that 43.2% of those questioned have changed their daily routines “a lot” since the pandemic began, while 41.6% have changed their routines “a little.”

Most people, 68.8%, changed their routines by spending more time at home, the survey said, while 68.2% said they were avoiding contact with others and 67.2% said they were going out to eat less.

The online survey of 473 Wyoming residents is the fourth conducted by the Survey and Analysis Center since the pandemic began to determine public attitudes about it. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%.

Those questioned were a randomly selected sample of Wyoming residents who are part of the Survey and Analysis Center’s “WyoSpeaks” panel. Email surveys were sent to 1,486 panel members and 473 responded.

Earlier Cowboy State Daily stories had erroneously reported that the survey was a random telephone survey.

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Utah Highway Patrols Pulls Over 5-Year-Old Driving to California to Buy Sports Car

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You really can’t blame him for wanting a sports car.

The problem is, when you are 5 years old, you aren’t allowed to drive.

But that didn’t stop a little boy from Ogden, Utah, who was doing it anyway.

Apparently, the 5-year-old was upset at his mother for not getting him a Lamborghini.

So, he grabbed the keys to his parents’ boring SUV and took off.

He actually made it to freeway — several miles from home.

A Utah Highway Patrol officer clocked him going 32 mph and thought he was looking at an impaired driver.

When the boy pulled over in the far right lane (see dash-cam footage above), the officer went out to question him.

Trooper Rick Morgan told FOX 13 in Salt Lake City that it became clear to him immediately he was dealing with an underage driver.

So, he did what any officer does: asked him where he was driving.  “California,” the boy said.

“He was going to try to get to his sister’s house in California,” Morgan said. “He told another trooper while we were investigating, trying to find the family, that he wanted to buy a Lamborghini when he got there and he showed a wallet, with $3 in it.”

The boy was eventually reunited with his parents. Sadly, his pursuit of a Lamborghini was not successful.

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Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Up By Five to Total 275; One Death

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming went up by five on Monday, the same day the state saw its first death attributed to the illness.

The Wyoming Department of Health said new cases were reported in Fremont, Laramie and Sweetwater Counties.

The number of people to have recovered from COVID-19 since it surfaced in Wyoming also went up slightly to total 140 by Monday afternoon.

As of Monday’s update from the Department of Health, Laramie County had 60 cases; Teton County had 56; Fremont County had 41; Natrona County had 33; Sheridan County had 12; Campbell and Johnson had 11; Sweetwater had nine; Converse had eight; Albany, Lincoln and Washakie had five; Carbon and Uinta had four, and Crook and Goshen had three. Big Horn, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties each had one case.

The death was reported in Johnson County and the patient was identified as an older male with underlying health issues that made him susceptible to coronavirus complications.

“While we’ve learned most people who are infected are able to recover at home without medical care, we also know people who are aged 65 and older and people who have medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and weak immune systems are more likely to experience complications and become severely ill,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer.

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25% of Wyoming Stay-At-Home Workers Boozing During Work Hours

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If you are tempted to have a drink or seven two while working at home during the coronavirus pandemic, you’re not alone.

According to a new Alcohol.org study, a full 25% of Wyoming workers who are newly employed-from-home are slamming a few back during the work hours.

The survey polled 3,000 American workers and the drink of choice among work-from-home boozers is beer.

What kind? Sadly, we don’t know. Maybe Blatz or Schlitz Malt Liquor. Perhaps Lowenbrau.

Those with a sense of humor would undoubtedly choose Corona. Or Coors Light.

Does 25% seem high to you? Of our neighboring states only one has a lower percentage of boozers (and it’s not Utah).

Only 22% of South Dakotans are taking advantage of not having a boss around.

Hawaiians flat-out don’t care. A full two-thirds of them are opening up the hatch while working on TPS reports.

The lowest state?  Arkansas with only 8% admitting to honking the hooch.

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UW Study Says Social Distancing Better For Economy Than No Social Distancing

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The economic impacts nationally of having people avoid contact with each other during the coronavirus epidemic will ultimately be far smaller than taking no action to halt the spread of the illness, according to a study prepared by University of Wyoming economists.

The study concluded that while the immediate direct monetary impact of “social distancing” on the country’s economy will be higher than taking no action, the cost in lives will be much higher if no action is taken.

“Assuming that social distancing measures can substantially reduce contacts among individuals, we find net benefits of roughly $5 trillion in in our benchmark scenario,” the study said.

The study, titled “The benefits and costs of flattening the curve for COVID-19,” was authored by Linda Thunstrom, Stephen Newbold, David Finnoff, Madison Ashworth and Jason Shogren, all with the UW’s Department of Economics.

The authors said they wanted to answer the question of whether orders in place across the country for people to remain in their homes are worth the economic disruption that will result.

“These social distancing measures save lives, but they also impose significant costs on society,” the study said. “The resulting contraction of economic activity puts vulnerable low-income workers in jeopardy, and recent forecasts suggest that overall economic output in 2020 may decline substantially, despite large fiscal and monetary stimulus.”

The study quoted Goldman Sachs, an investment banking, securities and investment management firm, as predicting the value of the country’s Gross Domestic Product will fall by 3.8% this year due in part to social distancing measures. Over the next five years, the study projected total loss in value at $26.2 trillion.

Without social distancing measures, the five-year loss in the value of the GDP was estimated at $19.4 trillion.

However, deaths without social distancing could total more than 2.1 million, the study predicted, a number that shrinks to 941,000 with social distancing.

The value of the lives lost with no social distancing was estimated at $21.6 trillion, while with social distancing measures in place, the value will be $9.4 trillion, the study said.

The net effect is that over five years, social distancing will reduce the economic impact of the illness by $5 trillion, the study said.

“Our benefit-cost analysis shows that the extensive social distancing measures currently being adopted in the U.S. likely do not constitute an overreaction,” it said. “Based on a variety of plausible scenarios, the economic benefits of lives saved substantially outweigh the value of the projected losses of GDP.”

The impacts of social distancing will be severe, the study said, and people will have to be convinced to continue the practices as their economic situations change.

Wyoming Future Grim Without Social Distancing, Medical Society Head Says

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming can avoid a grim outcome from the coronavirus epidemic if its residents pay attention to recommendations to stay away from each other, the president of the Wyoming Medical Society said Monday.

Dr. David Wheeler, a Casper neurologist, used his appearance at a news conference held by Gov. Mark Gordon to urge state residents to heed the statewide orders put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve seen over and over again the horrific effects of waiting too long to enact such policies,” he said. “If we do not act now, it is certain that we will use up all the available resources for health care in just a matter of weeks.”

If the health care system is overwhelmed, people suffering from regular health problems such as heart problems or strokes will not be able to get basic care, Wheeler said.

“This is a grim outcome, but we can avoid this if we start working together today,” he said. “If we flatten the curve now, our hospitals will have more time to prepare. If we flatten the curve now, fewer people will be sick at any given time. If we work hard during this time to surge hospital capacity and at the same time slow the spread of the disease, many more of us will make it through to the other end of this.”

Wheeler said the Medical Society is also urging doctors to use “telehealth” technology to advise patients rather than in-person clinic visits and to not perform any elective procedures.

As of Monday afternoon, 94 cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed in 15 counties around the state. 

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said during the news conference that since the disease reached Wyoming, 16 people have been hospitalized with symptoms, however, she noted that all 16 are not hospitalized now.

Harrist added the state is estimating that 24 patients have fully recovered from the disease.

The state has issued three orders designed to encourage “social distancing” among the state’s residents. One closed schools and businesses likely to draw more than 10 people, another closed businesses providing personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, and a third banned gatherings of 10 or more people.

All three orders are in place until April 17. President Donald Trump is recommending that social distancing guidelines be observed until the end of April and Gordon said he and Harrist are studying Wyoming’s situation daily to determine whether the state’s orders should be extended.

Wheeler said in other places around the world, it appears that three to six weeks of social distancing is required before infection numbers peak and then begin to drop.

“Then there’s an additional multiple week tail-off,” he said. “We’re really looking at continuing social distancing fairly aggressively for the next six weeks or so and then gradually beginning to relax in the next couple of months after that.”

Gordon also announced that the state has been working to get equipment into the hands of county officials and the Wind River Indian Reservation tribes, along with the coronavirus test materials that have been in short supply.

Gordon also repeated his earlier pleas to Wyoming residents to stay at home if at all possible to slow the spread of the illness.

“Regardless of where you are, regardless of the circumstance, you need to stay at home, you need to respect social distancing, you need to practice exceptional hygiene,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you all go to the Walmart or some other store at the same time.”

Businesses should take steps to make sure they limit the number of customers coming through their doors to make sure not too many people gather at once, Gordon said.

“This is incredibly important,” he said. “If we can continue to work to flatten the curve, evidence has shown that we can defeat this virus before it becomes a challenge for the state.

Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Increase to 82

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The detection of nine new cases of coronavirus in seven counties pushed Wyoming’s coronavirus case count to 82 on Saturday.

The Wyoming Health Department reported the cases included the first cases in Converse and Sublette counties. Three new cases were reported in Fremont County, while one new case was reported in each of Converse, Johnson, Laramie, Sheridan, Sublette and Teton counties.

As of Saturday morning, the number of cases around the state stood at 20 in Fremont County, 19 in Laramie County, 13 in Teton County, eight in Natrona, and six in Sheridan. Johnson County had five cases and three cases were reported in Carbon County. Albany, Campbell, Converse, Goshen, Park, Sublette, Sweetwater and Washakie counties each reported one case.

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Gordon Vetoes Million-Acre Land Purchase Bill

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would have laid out the process for evaluating the state’s possible purchase of 1 million acres of land in southern Wyoming was vetoed Friday by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon vetoed Senate File 138, one of several measures proposed during the Legislature’s recent budget session to allow the possible purchase of the land from Occidental Petroleum.

The bill would have called for the State Land and Investment Board, made up of the state’s top five elected officials, to study the possible sale and report back to the Legislature, which would decide how and whether to finance the purchase.

Gordon, in his veto letter, said the final version of the bill imposed too many requirements for reports by the executive branch to the Legislature.

“The end result is a vehicle so heavily laden with legislative baggage that the ability to conduct thorough and appropriate due diligence takes a back seat to mandated reports and recommendations,” he wrote.

As written, the bill also raises concerns about the appropriate roles of the legislative and executive branch in such investments, Gordon said.

“In particular as ultimately passed, the act contemplates giving final decision making authority over an executive branch function to the legislative branch,” he wrote. “While there is a role for both branches of government in a transaction such as this, we must be ever mindful that each role must be exercised in the proper manner and at the proper time in the process.”

Gordon said the executive branch will continue its efforts to evaluate the purchase and will report any progress to the Legislature. He also committed to honoring all the requirements for public comment and public involvement in the purchase that were outlined in the bill.

Gordon thanked the legislators who worked with him to draft the legislation in its original form.

“Members of the Legislature and my office worked tirelessly crafting a process to provide the ability to conduct due diligence on the land and assets being offered for sale to the State of Wyoming,” he wrote. “I appreciate everyone’s efforts.”

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Don Day’s Wyoming Weather Forecast for Wednesday, February 12

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Welcome to Wednesday, February, You’re watching the Day weather podcast.

Let’s take a look at the snowfall forecast. Notice we continue to see — not a lot — but a little of snow coming thru the Rockies and the High Plains. 

There’s a system coming in today and early Thursday that will spread a little bit of light snow. 

You can see while it’s not heavy we are talking about a dusting — one to two inches of snow on the plains east of the Divide. You can see a little bit more snow falling on the mountain ranges as you would expect.

Cold air will continue to funnel in out of Canada. So it’s going to be pretty chill. A little bit of snow, lot a lot of snow but enough to be a nuisance.

It’s still going to make the roads icy across the region. This is especially true across the higher mountain passes of Colorado, I-80, I-25, I-90 across northeastern Wyoming. 

We have slick roads just about everywhere due to recent snow events and the fact that it continues to be cold and it will stay cold.

Temps for another day or two will be pretty chilly. They will warm up a little as we get into Friday and Saturday.

Beyond Saturday, we are going to keep our eye on a developing storm system that could come in Sunday into President’s Day Monday.

This is the basic upper level jet stream by Monday morning. Notice there is a trough coming in right here coming into southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah.

this chart we’re showing you is from the European model. It is a bit stronger than the American models but it is something we need to watch.

We’ve seen systems like this right around the President’s Day weekend that sometimes show up and comes thru before heading out to the East. So if you have a three day weekend coming up, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the weather. There could be a little more snow in the forecast.

Taking a look 10 days from now. Notice the jet stream flow kinda of straightens out. Low out here on the west coast that meanders around. More in the way of Pacific air coming in.

We talked about this yesterday. After the 20th or so it doesn’t look as cold. But it does look like a busy weather pattern especially as we get to the end of February and the beginning of March.

There’s a lot of winter weather on the table. Nothing too bad for the next few days. But do be ready for cold and just enough snow to be a nuisance.

For folks who follow the Day weather podcast, one thing we talk about is the sun, cosmic rays, solar activity

We are at a solar minimum right now — the strongest solar minimum in over 100 years. One thing that we keep track of is the amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth.

Right here is where we are right now with cosmic rays. The space age record goes back to 2009 in the last solar minimum. We are really close to breaking this record.

Cosmic rays have been tracked since 1964. So this solar minimum which broke records in 2019 could break the record for the most amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth here in early 2020.

Why is this important?  Solar activity has show to make connection with long term climate and weather trends.

Low solar activity has an impact that can make more clouds on the earth and can make it a little bit cooler.

Something we will continue to watch for you as the solar minimum is currently bottoming out right now over the next two or three months. It is interesting to watch.

Thanks for watching the Day Weather podcast, we will talk to you on Thursday.

Lander, Riverton Basketball Teams Recognize Murdered and Missing Girls

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

The standing room only crowd at the Lander Fieldhouse Tuesday, Jan. 28, saw some powerful symbolism of the effort to deal with murdered and missing Indian girls in Indian Country.

The basketball rivalry between the two teams is legendary but on this night, players united in wearing the same red tee shirts and posed together for a photo, prior to the big game.

Lynnette Grey Bull, a leader of a movement called MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indian Women) spoke. A song was presented by Mirks and Cedar Manzanares, which was solemn and soulful.

Just the previous week, a 23-year reservation woman Jade Wagon was found dead in a field. She had been missing since Jan. 2. The investigation is ongoing. Her older sister died earlier in Riverton last year.

Grey Bull declared “No one should disappear without a trace. No one should be murdered. No family should have to go through this.”

It was an emotional moment for a huge crowd of Fremont County basketball fans. It should be noted that many of the stars of the two basketball squads were members of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes.

The game? Lander jumped out to a 19-2 lead only to see Riverton come back and tie it 43-43 in the fourth quarter before Lander eked out the victory.

Posted by Lynnette Grey Bull on Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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