County locks down in midst of outbreak
March 26, 2020
Like the rest of the world, Crook County is navigating uncharted waters this week as COVID-19 continues its spread. As the streets grew emptier, businesses and government entities scrambled to continue offering service and Wyoming’s citizens joined much of the nation in a period of self-isolation.
“It is an absolute fact that social distancing slows the growth of coronavirus disease,” Governor Mark Gordon said in a statement on Friday as he endorsed an order from State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist to ban gatherings of ten or more people in a single room or confined space. “I very much appreciate the willingness of our state’s residents to comply with this action. Particularly because it is now becoming clear that young adults 18-50 are also at risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19.”
The number of people infected with the coronavirus grew to 29 by Tuesday across eight of Wyoming’s counties. Fremont County had the highest concentration of cases at ten, closely followed by Laramie County with seven.
Though Crook County as yet has no confirmed cases, one has been reported next door in Campbell County. As the week began, 484 people in Wyoming had been tested for the virus.
The state closed public places for two weeks to help slow the spread. Under the order, businesses under the closure order include bars, restaurants, theaters, gyms, museums, coffee shops some childcare facilities and schools until April 3.
Restaurants were asked to close to dine-in food service but could stay open for take-out or drive-through. Childcare facilities were asked to close, except for those serving essential personnel.
“This Governor has never been inclined to overstep local authority, but these are unprecedented times. It is critical that there is uniformity across the state in how social distancing measures are implemented,” Governor Mark Gordon said.
“Wyoming, like all Americans, must commit to reducing the strain on our healthcare system. These are hard measures and they will be difficult for employees and businesses alike, but they are warranted.”
Harrist said, “We realize this action will be very difficult for many of our residents. But it is an important step to help them avoid becoming ill and to help them avoid spreading COVID-19 to those who are most vulnerable. We should all work together to help keep our friends and neighbors safe.”
On Monday evening, according to reports from the Wyoming News Exchange, Gordon warned during a press briefing that the outbreak could last a while.
“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” he said. “This is going to impact life in Wyoming for a long time to come.”
Crook County Public Health would like to hear from anyone who has recently traveled out of the county or state to a place with a positive case.
“We appreciate the local business owners and public who have reached out with questions and to offer their support,” says Becky Tinsley, Public Health. “It’s great to see our communities rally together and look out for each other.”
Public Health also commends its city and county partners for their support.
Crook County responded to the potential outbreak with an emergency declaration. In the light of the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump and the state emergency declared by Gordon, it recognized that locally available private and public resources available to mitigate and alleviate the effects of the disaster may be insufficient and the county may be in need of state and federal assistance.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, the county commissioners also appointed the Crook County Public Health Office as its point of contact for COVID-19, coordinating with the Crook County Office of Homeland Security and Public Health Officer Dr. James Larsen as specified in the Crook County Emergency Operating Plan.
At the same meeting, the commissioners passed a resolution to limit access to the courthouse and other county facilities. Recognizing that the county’s government must continue to provide services while minimizing public interaction during the crisis, business will be conducted remotely via mail, email and telephone, and by appointment where necessary.
This order applies to the Crook County Commissioners, Clerk, Fire Warden, Treasurer, Assessor, Growth & Development Office, Extension Office, Fair, County Libraries, Weed & Pest Office, Attorney, Public Health and Road & Bridge. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to operate as deemed necessary by Sheriff Jeff Hodge and the Crook County Clerk of District Court and Circuit Court will remain open and continue to conduct regular business remotely, with the courts deciding when face-to-face appointments are necessary.
A special meeting of the commissioners has been scheduled for April 2 to discuss future action. The City of Sundance remains closed to walk-in visitors but can be contacted via phone or email.
“In the nursing home, we are self-isolating residents to their room to protect the spread if it gets into the facility,” says CEO Nathan Hough. “We are doing things like bingo in the hallways to engage our residents but also keep the six feet distance between them.”
The nursing home is currently accepting no visitors for the protection of residents. If you would like to send a message to residents to cheer them during this time of isolation, email a letter, picture, video or anything else to brighten their day to [email protected]
The hospital has received a lot of requests as to what the community can do to help, says Hough. Residents enjoy watching birds and like going outside in good weather, so a competition is to be held for the best homemade bird feeder. Drop them off by April 15 at the lobby with your name, age (if a child) and contact number, judging will be done according to age category.
“We have also received numerous questions about homemade masks and if community members can donate them,” he says. Please contact Charity Lindholm 283-3501 ext. 254, or [email protected] if you would like to donate homemade masks.
Acute care is following the same protocol in closing to visitors.
“We are asking that, if you come in with an ER patient, to please stay in the lobby, unless it is a minor and then one person can go with the child,” says Hough.
Also for the protection of residents, all employees are being screened prior to the start of their shift for fever, new-onset respiratory symptoms and recent travel or exposure to the virus.
Fast Track telemedicine is now up and running to help meet the community’s health needs while keeping possible exposure down. Outpatient laboratory will be done in the clinic or makeshift triage room in the hospital lobby.
“We are following close to the Wyoming Department of Health, CDC and CMS guidelines on what to do and will update as new guidelines come out,” Hough says.
Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center is open to provide care and is developing protocols for seeing clients safely and effectively. This will include reaching out to clients to discuss their needs and moving toward provision of extensive telehealth services
In-office and face-to-face services have been suspended except for emergencies and crises. Services such as injections, weekly pill box fills and crisis services are still available, as are on-call services.
Businesses hit with changes
Most local businesses have made changes to their operations during the outbreak, though many are staying open at the current time.
Decker’s Market has issued a statement assuring customers that everything possible will be done to keep the shelves stocked during the crisis. The company has asked that customers leave enough for others to meet their needs, too.
“Buy some, leave some, and let’s look out for each other,” the statement says.
Of those businesses publicizing changes, Bearlodge Bakery and Greenhouse will be accepting takeout orders, including for fresh bread, milk and eggs and for fresh produce and take-n-bake meals. For every loaf of bread ordered, the bakery will donate a loaf to the seniors and food pantry; for every cinnamon roll or donut, the bakery will donate one to the county’s healthcare workers.
The Longhorn Saloon & Grill is now offering curbside take-out only. Cowgirl Pizza and Laundromat will be changing its hours and opening for pickup and delivery orders, while Wyoming Treasure Chest & Eatery is accepting to-go orders for the salad bar.
The Dime Horseshoe Bar is open for package beer and liquor to-go orders between 12 and 6 p.m. The Turf Bar drive-up window will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for beer, alcohol and food sales.
Serendipity Floral is still taking orders via telephone and will continue to deliver, including to the front door of the hospital. Rolling Metal Sinclair will stay open as long as possible and will pick up and deliver vehicles for repair. When purchasing gas, they will authorize the pump and come out for payment once you are filled up.
Vilas Pharmacy has closed its front door, but will prepare orders on your behalf to include prescriptions, over-the-counter and any other items. Call ahead and staff will bring your order to the door.
Powder River Energy has closed its office lobbies until further notice, but representatives will remain on duty during working hours and will be available for personal appointments on a case-by-case basis. Business transactions will continue via phone and payment drop boxes at the office will be available; SmartHub can be used for online payments and signing documents.
PRECorp is also temporarily suspending disconnects for nonpayment for residential members and non-residential services essential for public protection.
Body & Soul Spa and Holistic Services will be closing its doors to comply with recommendations from the CDC and local authorities. Peak Motion Fitness will also be closed until the state once again permits operation and will be granting membership extensions to match the closure period.
Bomgaars in Spearfish has also announced that it will be adjusting its store hours to 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday to Saturday and has added curbside and carryout service; call ahead with your list of needs.
Range Telephone has postponed its annual membership meeting.
If your business has instituted changes due to the outbreak and you would like us share that information with the public, please let us know. We will keep an updated list of operating hours and contact information on our website at http://www.sundancetimes.com
Official guidelines from Dr. Larsen call for any employer serving the public needs to screen their employees daily for symptoms of illness using the following guidelines: anyone with a fever at or above 100 degrees, or a fever and cough, should remain at home and self-isolate. Anyone with a fever at or above 100 degrees and shortness of breath may need medical care and should call their primary provider, the clinic or ER if after hours.
If you have mild respiratory symptoms, and no fever, such as runny nose, mild cough or congestion, you may work but must wear a mask. Please notify your supervisor of your symptoms.
Disaster loans available
Small businesses will be eligible to apply for up to $2 million in federal economic disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are designed to help small businesses and private nonprofits suffering financially as a result of COVID-19 and can be accessed via sba.gov/disaster.
Crook County Senior Services has been working with staff and volunteers to take care of seniors by delivering needed items such as milk and toilet paper. Donations of both these items are ready to go; let senior services know if you or a loved one is in need.
Curbside pick-up is available for meals from the Sundance and Hulett senior center and home-delivered meals are available countywide. Transportation services are still in operation.
The Food Pantry will be available to serve the public and is calling for help from the public so that it can offer extra support during the coming weeks. Donations that would be of particular help include canned meats, cereal, crackers, soup, Ramen noodles, macaroni & cheese, peanut butter, jelly, breakfast bars and easy-to-prepare/kid-friendly foods.
Donation boxes are available around the county, at the grocery stores, Public Health and the local pantries.
All county libraries are closed, but each is offering a curbside pick-up service and limited delivery. Call your library for information.
The Sundance USDA Service Center is open and providing service via telephone and email. However, they are not accepting in person customers. The Service Center includes Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation District and the Crook County Natural Resource District.
WYDOT Driver Services will be limiting clients in the Sundance office to five. VIN inspection services have been suspended for 30 days.
Caucus is mail-in
The Wyoming Democratic Caucus has officially been moved to mail-in only. The intention is to allow everyone the opportunity to participate while still ensuring the Wyoming Democratic Party does its part in the fight against the virus.
Votes who registered between March 11 and 20 will automatically be sent a ballot in the mail. All voters must have registered by March 20.
Two rounds of ballots were previously mailed out. If you are unable to use or locate your ballot, request a new one no later than March 31 using the form linked at http://www.wyodems.org/2020caucus. Returned ballots must be received by April 17.
At a time when we’ve all been asked to stay at least six feet apart, Wyoming has an advantage over some parts of the world in its sprawling recreation areas. However, government agencies are warning that citizens should take care when making use of these destinations.
The United States Department of Agriculture has decreed that the National Forests will remain open, but recreation services may be changed or suspended. The U.S. Forest Service is asking the public to be responsible when they recreate.
Because of potential limitations in rescue operations, please avoid high risk activities such as rock climbing or back country activities that increase your chance of injury or distress.
Devils Tower National Monument has closed its visitor center until further notice, but park roads and trail remain open. Visitors are asked to be prepared for limited service in the area and pack extra food and water when visiting.
Game & Gish is asking people to utilize their online services. Many licenses and stamps are available for purchase and licenses without a carcass coupon are eligible for digital proof in the field using a phone or tablet. At the current time, there are no planned changes to hunting seasons or the draw process, but the department has stated there may be unanticipated disruptions to programs or staffing.