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Coronavirus case count jumps to 40, third closure order issued

 

March 19, 2020



Wyoming’s coronavirus case count grew to 40 on Wednesday following the discovery of eight new cases in six counties Tuesday and three more Wednesday.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced he would hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the state’s reaction to the epidemic, including Tuesday’s order closing businesses that provide personal services, such as beauty salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors.

The state Department of Health reported that new cases were diagnosed Tuesday and Wednesday in Laramie, Natrona, Carbon, Sweetwater, Teton and Fremont counties.

The case in Sweetwater County was the county’s first.

“We would like for this to be our one and only case, but we are aware this likely will not be the situation,” said Kristy Nielson, chief nursing officer for Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County.

More than 700 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the state since the COVID-19 epidemic began and state officials have predicted for several weeks that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases would increase as more testing was done.

Fremont County remained the hardest hit county in the state with 13 cases, followed by Laramie County with 10. Sheridan and Natrona counties each had four cases, Carbon and Teton each had three and Campbell, Park and Sweetwater each had one.

As the number of cases grew, Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, issued the order to close down as of Wednesday businesses that provide personal services. The order was to remain in effect through at least April 3.

“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,” Gordon said in a news release. “We have tried to navigate a thoughtful course, but as COVID-19 spreads through our communities, we must take this action now.”

The order applies to businesses where social distancing is not practical, including nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, massage parlors and tattoo, body art and piercing shops.

The order does not apply to physical therapy providers.

In other developments:

Park closures: National Park Service officials closed Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks Tuesday in response to requests from health officials in Wyoming and Montana.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a news release.

Driver’s licenses: Gordon on Tuesday signed an executive order providing a grace period for people whose driver’s licenses and identification cars may expire while limits are in place on state employees.

The order provides a 90-day grace period for people whose licenses or identification cards expire between March 15 and June 1. It also suspends non-commercial driving tests for 90 days.

UW grading: University of Wyoming officials are to ask the university’s board of trustees to allow students to choose to have their current semester’s courses graded on a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” basis. Officials said the move will ease the transition into remote course delivery. Selecting the option would mean students would not have their grades this semester count toward their cumulative grade point average.

No makeup time: The Department of Education has decided that students in public schools will not have to make up classroom time lost to school closures prior to April 3. Most of the state’s public schools were closed last week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Ammo sales: Jackson gun shops have reported a run on ammunition since the pandemic began. Sgt. Trevor Aitken, a training officer with the Teton County Sheriff’s Department, compared the development to “panic buying” similar to that seen with toilet paper in grocery stores.

No public attendance: Lincoln County Commissioners have blocked members of the public from attending their meetings in person. Commissioners instead have made a conference call telephone line available for those who wish to monitor their meetings remotely.

Air travel: Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport in Rock Springs announced it would move to one flight a day in and out of Rock Springs on April 1. However, the airport will remain open.

Remote education: Most of the state’s community colleges have decided to keep their campuses closed for the rest of the spring semester and provide education via computer.

Sheridan, Gillette and Casper colleges, along with Northwestern Wyoming College, Laramie County Community College and Western Wyoming Colleges, all announced they will offer classes online.

Eastern Wyoming College, where spring break ended Monday, will provide classes online or through “modified” means, according to the college’s website.

Hand sanitizer: Gordon directed the Wyoming Business Council to allocate funds to Wyoming distilleries and breweries to help them buy the supplies they need to manufacture hand sanitizer.

“This collaborative effort represents the Wyoming spirit we all know and love,” he said in a news release. “Folks banding together in challenging economic times to support public health and advance the greater good.”

Distilleries that have committed to making sanitizer include Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne, Pine Bluffs Distilling, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby and the Jackson Hole Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson.

 
 

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