Teton County requires people to stay at home, Wyoming COVID-19 cases rise to 130
March 26, 2020
The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming increased to 130 on Wednesday as the Wyoming Health Department detected new cases in five counties.
Both Natrona and Teton counties saw their case counts grow by three, bringing their totals to 15 and 26, respectively. Laramie County saw two new cases, while Campbell and Converse each reported one new case.
The growth in Teton County’s case count came as county officials issued what they called a “stay at home” order for the county’s residents.
The county adopted an order for residents to limit their contact to individuals within the same household.
The county had earlier issued an order for all those 65 or older and those with high-risk medical conditions to remain at home. The town of Jackson followed suit with an ordinance imposing the same restrictions on all residents. Both orders allowed people to leave their homes to get supplies, care for others or go to work.
Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton County’s health officer, said the most recent order, signed Monday by Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, is more of an actual requirement than a suggestions.
“For all intents and purposes, it is a stay-at-home order,” he said.
Jackson rescinded its order once the county-wide order took effect.
The order still allows people to leave their homes to obtain or deliver supplies, to care for someone in another household, to obtain medical care or to go to work.
Violation of the order can be punished with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
Law enforcement officers in Teton County said they are not aggressively enforcing the orders.
“They aren’t looking for heavy-handed enforcement,” said Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith. “It’s a mechanism to send a strong message.”
Gov. Mark Gordon has resisted issuing a statewide “stay at home” order, saying the three statewide orders already in place are sufficient to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections. Those orders close schools and businesses where more than 10 people are like to gather, close businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, and prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.
Gordon said during a news conference Monday that if he issues a statewide order, it will be very restrictive and contain very few exceptions.
“If we’re going to issue a ‘shelter in place’ or ‘stay at home’ order, it is not going to have multiple exemptions,” he said. “It will be a true ‘shelter in place’ order.”
Wyoming’s coronavirus case count stood at 120 on Tuesday as 25 new cases were detected in eight counties.
As of Wednesday morning, Laramie County had the highest number of cases in the state with 29. Fremont County had 25 cases; Teton County had 26; Natrona County had 15; Sheridan County had 10; Johnson County had seven; Campbell had four; Albany and Carbon had three, and Converse and Sweetwater had two. Goshen, Park, Sublette and Washakie counties all reported one case.
In other developments:
Back-to-school: School districts across the state prepared to teach their students remotely beginning Monday, April 6. Most of the state’s school districts extended their spring breaks by one to two weeks because of coronavirus and used that time to get plans in place to provide online lessons until restrictions are lifted. Gov. Gordon’s order closing schools is in place until at least April 17.
Utility relief: Utility bills for March are being waived for Dubois residents. Dubois Town Council members have agreed that because of the financial strain caused by the coronavirus and related business shutdowns, no bills would be sent for city-provided utilities for the month of March.
Connected cases: In a case that shows how the COVID-19 virus can spread, Sweetwater County’s two coronavirus cases have been linked to cases in Natrona County. Officials with the Sweetwater County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center announced the link Tuesday during their daily briefing. Officials also said more than 50 people who have had contact with the two patients in the county are either showing symptoms of coronavirus and have been quarantined or are proactively self-isolating.
Better grade: Wyoming’s grade for self-isolating success has gone up in recent days to a “D-.” Unacast, a company that uses cell phone signals to track the movement of people, reported Wyoming residents have reduced their travel by 25% since late February and have cut back on “non-essential visits” by 55% to 60%.
The state about a week ago had received an “F” because travel by its residents actually increased slightly from late February. The state’s travel still merits an “F” in the company’s rankings, but its reduction in non-essential visits earns it a “D.”
Tracking the untested: A volunteer group is collecting information on Wyoming residents who believe they have coronavirus symptoms but have been unable to be tested. UntestedWyoming is asking individuals to use its website, UntestedWyoming.com, to report their symptoms, experiences and, if desired, contact information for delivery to Wyoming’s COVID-19 Task Force and Gov. Mark Gordon.
Nick, Schwaderer, a programmer and former Montana legislator, created the website for Wyoming about a week after launching a similar site for Montana.
Health officials have said they are prioritizing who to test for the illness because of the nationwide shortage of test kits. First priority is being given to hospitalized patients and health care providers and staff.
Re-evaluation requested: State Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, is asking Gov. Mark Gordon to reconsider his orders closing businesses and limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. In a letter to Gordon, Clem said he can see no “end-game” to the business closures forced by the coronavirus and resulting job losses and economic impacts.
Clem suggested Gordon develop plans to send people back to work and school while focusing state resources on reinforcing the state medical community’s ability to deal with coronavirus. He also suggested Gordon call a special legislative session to deal with the issue.