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Teton County Sets Up Website To Report People Who Are Violating Mask Mandates

in Teton County/News

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Two members of the Teton County Commission on Tuesday signaled concern when hearing about a new webpage that enables residents to report on mask violations in Jackson and surrounding areas.

The sheriff of Teton County, however, said there is no enforcement behind it and it was built to alleviate the high numbers of phone calls for and against the mark mandate that come into county dispatch.

At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Commissioners Greg Epstein and Mark Barron both expressed apprehension that a page was built without their knowledge on the county’s COVID website that allows citizens to file a report against individuals or businesses who are not abiding by the Teton County mask mandate.

“I have a lot of problems with this. I think it’s a complete overreach of our government,” Epstein said at the meeting.

“Secondly, I don’t even know who authorized it.  It wasn’t in the [mask] order,” he said. “I think that we need to have a cease and desist on it immediately. There’s already a lot of mistrust in our community and in the country, and I think this is only exacerbating that.”

Commissioner Barron was quick to agree noting that the new webpage was a surprise to him as well.

“I too am very troubled by this,” Barron said. “We’ve got a community that’s worked really hard trying to stamp out COVID. And I don’t see this as a positive step forward. And I am curious where this came from and how this came to be I did not see this in the order.”

Keith Gingery, Chief Deputy Attorney for Teton County, explained the webform was newly created because the last time there was a mask mandate individuals wanting to report violations would call the Teton County Sheriff’s department.

“People were calling dispatch and they were tying up the line,” Gingery said. “The idea was, and I don’t know all the details, was so people weren’t calling dispatch for this.”

Later in the meeting, Sheriff Carr concurred that the webform was set-up with his knowledge through Public Health to alleviate phone calls that dispatch was receiving.

“Dispatch just doesn’t need to get every phone call from somebody reporting that so and so is not wearing a mask in Albertsons,” Carr said.  “That just overwhelms our dispatch center in a real big hurry.”

Epstein was not satisfied with the explanation.

“I still feel like this is creating an environment of mistrust within our community, more divnisioning, more factioning,” he said.  “We’re pitting people against law enforcement unnecessarily and I’m worried.”

Carr said he was “having a hard time following [Epstein’s] logic” but acknowledged that masks are a “very polarizing issue.”

“So I just don’t want to cut off the public’s ability if they feel it necessary to report,” he said. “I just don’t want those phone calls clogging up our dispatch center.”

On Wednesday, Carr told Cowboy State Daily that the site was just a “management tool” with no enforcement behind it.

“We’re not trying to create anything for neighbors to report neighbors,” he said. “We’re not going to enforce it. What we’ve done in the past is if Public Health tells us there are 25 complaints at a location, we might go there and talk to the owners. But we’re not going to enforce it.”

“We’re not encouraging people to use it. But there are people in our community — like any community — who want to vent whether it be for the masks or against the masks,” he said. “This is a tool for them to vent.”

Commissioner Barron, on Wednesday, told Cowboy State Daily he was satisfied with Carr’s explanation.

“I know there is no law enforcement with this and I’m fine with that,” Barron said. “If people feel like they have an ear when they email in, if public health has time to do this, then I’m fine with that.

“But the expectation that a police officer or a deputy sheriff is going to show up, people have to let that go. It’s not going to happen,” he said.

The commission agreed to table the issue until they could have conversations with the public health department.

Calls to the Teton County public health department have yet to be returned.

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Almost Half Of Wyoming Coronavirus Patients Recovered

in News/Coronavirus

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Almost half of the Wyoming residents to test positive for the coronavirus since February have fully recovered from the illness, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The department’s statistics showed that 105 of Wyoming’s coronavirus patients have recovered, which means they have gone three days with no symptoms and have taken no medication for fever reduction.

Since February, the state has confirmed 239 cases of the virus.

The highest number of recoveries, 22, was seen in the two counties with the highest number of confirmed cases — Laramie with 54 and Teton with 50.

Recoveries were recorded in every county where the disease has been detected with the exception of Crook, Lincoln and Niobrara.

Of Wyoming’s 239 cases, only 15.5% of the patients — about 37 — have required hospitalization, according to Health Department figures.

The department also reported that the majority of those with confirmed cases — 46% or 117 people — caught the illness through contact with another person known to be infected.

The biggest share of coronavirus patients fall within the age range of 60 to 69, the department said, about 20.9% or 50 patients.

Those age 50 to 59 make up the next largest group at about 40 patients — 16.9% — while 37 patients, 15.5%, are age 40 to 49.

The department said women make up a slight majority of those with the illness — 51.5%.

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Updated Model Predicts Fewer Deaths, Less Hospital Impact in Wyoming

in News/Coronavirus

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A new computer model is still predicting that Wyoming will see deaths from the coronavirus, however, both the estimated number of deaths and the projected strain the illness will put on the state’s hospitals have been reduced in the past week.

A computer model created by a University of Washington researcher now reports that the state will see 119 deaths from COVID-19 rather than the 134 predicted last week.

The model also showed that at the peak of the outbreak, predicted to occur in late April, the state will be short eight beds in intensive care units to meet the patient load. The last report predicted a shortage of 22 ICU beds.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said better information led to the revised projections.

“Thanks to many individuals and organizations, over the past few days we have been able to incorporate a number of different data sources into the IHME’s COVID-19 model, including state-level data on hospital utilization,” the institute said in a website posting accompanying the results of its model.

Wyoming Department of Health officials have said repeatedly they are looking at several different models, but are not backing any.

“We are aware of numerous modeling tools that have been developed, some of which have the ability to incorporate Wyoming-specific parameters and assumptions,” said Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the department. “But at this point we are not endorsing any specific modeling tool.”

The model predicted the number of deaths in Wyoming caused by coronavirus would gradually increase before peaking at six per day on April 29 and 30 and then declining.

The demand for intensive care unit beds was also predicted to grow through April, reaching a peak of 52 on April 29. The report said Wyoming now has 44 ICU beds.

However, the demand for total hospital beds, peaking at 258, would not exceed the total number available, 1,069, the model showed.

Wyoming Coronavirus: 10 New Cases On Sunday

in News/Coronavirus

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Ten new coronavirus cases surfaced in seven Wyoming counties on Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 197.

The Wyoming Department of Health reported that as of Sunday morning, new cases had been detected in Fremont, Laramie, Lincoln, Sheridan, Sweetwater, Teton and Washakie counties.

The biggest increase was seen in Teton County, where three new cases brought the county’s case total to 39.

As of Sunday morning, Laramie County had 43 cases; Teton County had 39; Fremont County had 37; Natrona had 23; Sheridan had 12; Johnson had eight; Campbell had six; Sweetwater had five; Albany, Carbon and Washakie each had four; Converse had three and Goshen, Lincoln and Uinta counties each had two. Crook, Park and Sublette counties had one case each.

However, the Health Department also noted a gain of three from Saturday in the number of coronavirus patients who have fully recovered, with the new total set at 50.

Laramie and Teton counties had the largest recovery numbers at 10 each, while Johnson County recorded seven recoveries and Fremont County recorded six.

Earlier on Sunday, a Lander City Council member painted a grim picture of the ongoing battle against the coronavirus at one of the hardest hit areas in the state. 

Cade Maestas said he was invited to Sage West Medical Clinic in Lander to observe medical professionals dealing with COVID-19.

Maestas came away with a dire warning.

“For all of the people that think they know better, for the doubters, for the conspiracy theorists, I tell you I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s real,” he said.

“I saw four family members, all unconscious and on ventilators,” he wrote. “The youngest of them was 28 and had no underlying health conditions. It was day 10 for them living on machines.”

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Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Mostly Seen In Ages 60-69

in News/Coronavirus

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The majority of Wyoming’s coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in people age 60 to 69, according to the state Department of Health.

The department’s statistics on the coronavirus outbreak showed that of the 53 cases confirmed in the state as of Thursday morning, 26 percent were found in people age 60 to 69.

The second-highest rate of infection was found in those age 50 to 59 years at almost 19 percent, followed by those age 40 to 49, at 17 percent, and those age 30 to 39 at 11.3 percent. Those age 70 to 79 made up 9.4 percent of the cases and the lowest prevalence of the cases was among those age 19 to 29 years, 3.8 percent.

No cases have been detected in anyone age 18 or younger.

The cause of most of the cases, 39.6 percent, is unknown. Contact with an infected person has been responsible for 37.7 percent of the cases, while domestic travel was cited as the cause for 18.9 percent of the cases. Only 3.8 percent of the cases were attributed to international travel.

Most of the people with coronavirus are women, 50.9 percent, while men make up 34 percent of the cases.

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WyoMovies Closes Theaters Until Further Notice

in News/Coronavirus
empty movie theatre

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Theater chain WyoMovies has shut down all of its locations across the state, effective immediately, according to a post on its website.

Meanwhile, Regal and AMC, which both operate movie theaters in Wyoming, also announced the closures of their theaters.

WyoMovies, in a statement on its website, said its more than 60 screens in Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie, Green River and Rock Springs would go dark until further notice.

“This is an unprecedented time for all of us,” the statement read. “As many of you know, our theaters have long been open every day of the year. We look forward to opening our doors and lighting up our screens for you again very soon.”

Anyone who has purchased advance tickets through the WyoMovies website will be contacted to receive refunds. Those who purchased tickets through Atom Tickets must approach that company to obtain refunds.

The theater’s Studio Rewards won’t expire during the closure. 

The theater will reschedule screenings of “Jump Shot,” a documentary about University of Wyoming basketball star Kenny Sailors. The film was executive produced by basketball player Steph Curry and was originally scheduled to be screened in April. 

AMC, which runs the AMC Classic Frontier 9 theater in Cheyenne’s Frontier Mall, said all of its theaters — including those in Fort Collins, Colorado — would close “in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines.”

Theaters in Colorado, along with bars and other places where people congregate, have been ordered closed for 30 days by the state.

No such order has been issued in Wyoming.

Regal, which runs the Regal Fox Theater in Laramie, also closed its theaters across the country “as a precaution amid the current circumstances.”

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