Wyoming's coronavirus case count grows to 18
March 19, 2020
Teton County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus brought the state’s total confirmed case count for the illness to 18 as of Thursday morning.
The Teton County Health Department and St. John’s Health, Jackson’s hospital, announced that a man over the age of 60 living in Teton County had tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19.
Officials said the man contacted his health care provider after suffering flu-like symptoms, was tested and then self-isolated.
“Though this is our first case, we do not expect it will be our last,” said Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton County’s health officer. “I encourage community members to stay vigilant with protective measures as we work together to minimize the spread of this illness in Teton County and the region.”
Meanwhile, officials at F.E. Warren Air Force Base on Wednesday announced the first case of coronavirus in a military member assigned to the base.
Base officials said the member of the military had just returned to Wyoming after a trip out-of-state and did not return to the base after suffering flu-like symptoms.
The cases bring county totals around the state to eight in Fremont County, four each in Sheridan and Laramie counties, one in Park County and one in Teton County, according to the Wyoming Health Department.
As businesses across the state voluntarily shut their doors temporarily, Gov. Mark Gordon said he would leave the decision on whether to order the closure of bars, coffee shops and other places where people congregate up to individual counties.
Gordon on Wednesday issued a statement supporting the coronavirus recommendations issued by President Donald Trump for people to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and to avoid eating or drinking in bars or restaurants.
The recommendations prompted Teton County’s Riddell to order the closure of bars, fitness clubs and other places where more than 10 people might gather. The order allowed restaurants to stay open for curbside takeaway and drive-through service.
Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman said the governor would leave such decisions in the hands of county officials.
“Individual county health officers should work with county commissioners to determine whether closures are suitable given their circumstances,” he said in an email. “The state health officer would authorize the closure at the request of a county health officer and elected officials.”
Gordon said he realized such decisions could be difficult for Wyoming’s residents.
“These are going to be perhaps the toughest times any of us will see in our lifetimes,” he said. “Although absolutely necessary, I recognize the toll these measures will take on those most dependent on a working wage. But by working together and practicing good hygiene, kindness and charity, we can keep vulnerable adults healthy, avoid overwhelming our health care system and support those most in need.”
As many Wyoming residents began waiting out the illness, groups began forming statewide to help people get the supplies they need.
Using social media, groups collected information on what supplies were needed by individuals and then matched those people with others who have a surplus of those goods.
In Casper, volunteers helped distribute food from Joshua’s Storehouse, a food pantry, to those who may not have been able to get out to pick it up. Most of the pantry’s existing volunteers are in their mid-60s and Kim Perez, the founder of Joshua’s Storehouse, said she did not want to risk exposing them to the virus.
As a result, new volunteers stepped up to handle deliveries and to pack supply boxes.
In Cheyenne, two residents have established a collection center where those with extra supplies can drop some off to be shared.
In other developments:
State coronavirus website: Gov. Mark Gordon announced the launch of a state government web page dedicated to providing information on the COVID-19 outbreak.
The website, covid19.wyo.gov, includes links to resources and information from the state Department of Health, Office of Homeland Security, Department of Education, University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges.
Business curtailment: Officials in Park and Washakie counties recommended that businesses such as theaters, bars, coffee shops and fitness clubs close down to prevent the gathering of more than 10 people. Park County’s health officer also recommended the closure of non-essential businesses.
Neither county issued an order for such businesses to close, but Washakie County officials noted that “the state health officer may at any time choose to make these recommendations an order.”
Courts closed: Wyoming’s Supreme Court ordered all district and circuit courts to suspend in-person proceedings except in cases where such proceedings are required by the and the Constitution. Judges were encouraged to reschedule civil trials and use video or telephone conferencing as much as possible.
“We are fortunate that our branch (of government) has invested in video technology and upgraded our hardware in recent years so that we can perform many judicial functions remotely,” said Chief Justice Michael Davis.
DOC visitations: The Wyoming Department of Corrections suspended all visitations to its institutions on Wednesday, citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus. The DOC said none of its staff members or inmates has tested positive for the illness.
Education: School officials in Albany County voted Wednesday to close Laramie schools until April 6.
Government offices restricted: Albany County officials closed the county’s courthouse to walk-in business, although services remained available by phone or online.
The Campbell County Library was also closed.
Testing: Campbell County Hospital began drive-through coronavirus screening on Wednesday, joining facilities in Cheyenne and Rock Springs in offering the service. In all cases, patients must have been referred for testing by a health care provider before having samples collected.
Business restrictions: The Cheyenne Regional Airport announced it would suspend daily commercial flights to Dallas beginning April 7.
Airport Director Tim Barth said the decision to wait to suspend services will allow anyone wishing to return to Cheyenne from outside the area to do so.
“As we are looking out over the next two weeks, which is traditionally the spring break period for colleges and for families to take vacations, a number of people would be stranded if the flights stopped right now.”
The Plains Hotel in Cheyenne closed its doors until May because of the slowdown in business.
At least four newspapers closed their offices to the public as well: the Casper Star-Tribune, Rocket-Miner in Rock Springs, the Jackson Hole News&Guide and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
Events canceled: Almost any event expected to draw 50 or more people was canceled or postponed by Monday.