Wyoming News Briefs
April 2, 2020
Make-A-Wish starts Messages of Hope campaign as wishes are postponed
CHEYENNE (WNE) – More than 50 Wyoming kids with critical illnesses had pending wishes with the Make-A-Wish Foundation before the coronavirus spread across the U.S. Now, for the safety of the children and families, a majority of those wishes are on hold for the time being.
Cruises, trips to Disney World and tropical vacations will have to wait until the coronavirus threat is mitigated and traveling is safe.
In the meantime, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has organized a Messages of Hope campaign to help keep the kids in high spirits, according to Wish and Communications Coordinator Jenna VonHofe.
“We just want to ensure that our kids are still excited about their wish, and we want to continue to share the hope and joy that a wish can provide for a child,” VonHofe said.
Those interested in participating in the challenge can record a short video, post a picture or write a positive note to post on social media for a child waiting on a wish. In your post, be sure to include the Make-A-Wish social media handles (@MakeAWishWY on Facebook and @MakeAWish_WY on Twitter) and the hashtag #WishesAreWaiting.
Due to closures and safety restrictions with travel, a majority of Make-A-Wish Wyoming’s 56 pending wishes are on hold. Eight of the trips were already planned and ready to go, but they will have to wait until things return to normal.
While VonHofe said pushing the trips back was difficult, their main focus right now is on keeping their wish families safe.
Gas prices drop 26.7 cents in a month in Wyoming
GILLETTE (WNE) — Wyoming gas prices have fallen 10.4 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.16 per gallon Monday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 494 stations.
Like everything else in the nation these days, the cause of the lower prices is the coronavirus. People are staying home and driving far less than they did two weeks ago.
It has led to “an unprecedented drop never before seen in U.S. gasoline demand, causing prices to sink like a rock,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
“Today, we enter the 38th straight day the national average gas price has fallen, and the first week of the national average being under $2 a gallon for the first time in over four years as motorists park their cars and shelter in place,” he said.
“With the nation continuing to be under siege from the coronavirus and millions staying parked at home, there’s quite a bit more downside that’s in the pipeline coming in the weeks ahead. We could easily see the national average fall 50 cents to a dollar per gallon,” DeHaan said.
Gas prices in Wyoming are 26.7 cents per gallon lower than a month ago and stand 28.8 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.
The cheapest station in Wyoming is priced at $1.59 a gallon Monday while the most expensive is $2.79 a gallon, a difference of $1.20.
The national average price of gasoline has fallen 10.1 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $1.97 a gallon Monday. The national average is down 45.5 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands 72.7 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.
The drop has seen 29 states average gas prices fall under $2.
Despite social media claims, still no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Uinta County
EVANSTON (WNE) — Social media exploded on Sunday, March 29, when someone shared a video taken at the Evanston Flying J purported to show emergency crews wearing protective gear responding to Uinta County’s first case of COVID-19 in a truck driver.
The video was first posted to a truck driver’s wall of shame site and then shared widely.
However, Uinta County Fire and Ambulance and Uinta County Public Health quickly issued statements countering the misinformation contained in posts sharing the video.
Emergency crews are reportedly donning protective gear for every call at this point in time in an effort to keep first responders safe.
Uinta County Public Health said a truck driver was taken to Evanston Regional Hospital for a health issue and “the decision to test the individual was made based on an overabundance of caution to protect the individual, the community and those down the road.”
That individual was reportedly quarantined while awaiting test results.
The statement from Public Health noted that ERH has prepared for and continues to develop plans to care for not only Uinta County residents but for anyone passing through the community.
While the statewide total of confirmed cases stood at 94 in 15 counties on the morning of Monday, March 30, Uinta County still does not have a confirmed case.
Jackson Hole Airport employee among COVID-19 cases
JACKSON (WNE) — Jackson Hole Airport sent word Monday that one of the valley’s 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases resulted from the test of an employee.
The employee found out about his or her test results Sunday and immediately notified the airport, according to communications manager Meg Jenkins.
“The Jackson Hole Airport has thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the entire facility twice since the employee was at the Airport,” the airport announced in a statement. “This [is] part of an ongoing effort to maintain the cleanest and safest environment possible.”
In its response to coronavirus, Jackson Hole Airport has separated its staff into teams that cycle through shift groups.
“We are taking active precautionary measures and following best practices identified by Teton County Public Health, State of Wyoming and CDC,” Director Jim Elwood said in a statement.
The COVID-19-positive employee is currently in self-isolation. Jenkins declined to identify which part of the airport the employee worked in, citing federal laws restricting the release of medical information to protect privacy.
Grand jury indicts four Fremont County residents on federal kidnap, assault charges
RIVERTON (WNE) — Four Wind River Indian Reservation residents are charged last week with kidnapping, and two of those also are charged with assault.
United States Attorney Mark A. Klaassen announced Wednesday that Ashley Rose Yellowbear, 27, Samuel Harold Friday, 37, Kristen Jade Antelope, 26, and Rusty Tso Tabaho Sr. 27, were indicted by a federal grand jury on March 18 for kidnapping and aiding and abetting. Yellowbear and Friday also were indicted for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do bodily harm.
“Even in times of crisis,” Klaassen said, “We must continue to enforce the law and protect our communities. Violent crime is a top priority for my office and we are working to address violence in Indian country and across Wyoming.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation, with the help of the Wind River Police Department.
Court documents allege the following:
• Around Jan. 1, the defendants knowingly and unlawfully kidnapped a woman and a man to assault them, and intimidated them to prevent them from reporting the crimes.
• The defendants knowingly aided and abetted each other in the kidnapping.
• Yellowbear and Friday each assaulted one of the victims with a tire-iron.
The maximum penalty upon conviction for kidnapping and aiding and abetting is up to life in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, five years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.
The maximum penalty upon conviction for assault with a deadly weapon is up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Restitution to the victims may be ordered in this charge as well.
Goshen County corn growers earn national recognition
TORRINGTON (WNE) — A local corn-producing family placed high in the country again this year during a national conference to recognize yield production winners.
Rick Cook, Robert Cook and Chris Cook, all of Lingle, placed in the top three in their division among 531 national winners of the 2019 National Corn Growers Association’s National Corn Yield Contest.
The Cooks were among 531 national winners of the 2019 National Corn Growers Association’s National Corn Yield Contest.
The wins came during what was arguably one of the more difficult growing seasons in recent memory, said Kevin Ross of Minden, Iowa, president of the NCGA.
“The challenges U.S. corn farmers faced in 2019 were, in many ways, a perfect storm,” Ross said. “From a slew of weather-related issues to trade disruptions and persistent low prices, farmers were tested in many ways, often many times, over the past year.”
The Cooks attended the 2020 Commodity Classic held in San Antonio, Texas, in late February where they were recognized out of the 7454 entries out of 46 states.
The annual contest began in 1965 with only 20 entries from three states. At the time the highest yield was 218.9 bushels per acre with an average in the mid-60’s. Cook’s 2019 yield weighed in at 239.5. Average yield this past year was more than 383 bushels to the acre, well above the projected U.S. average of 168 bushels per acre.
Beyond bragging rights and a nice trophy, the contest spurs growers to try new and innovative techniques and technologies in corn production. “Farmers are encouraged through the contest to utilize new, efficient production techniques,” according to a NCGA press release.
Bridger-Teton supervisor: ‘We’d like to keep the forest open’
JACKSON (WNE) — With COVID-19-related restrictions closing down national parks, the Bridger-Teton National Forest is now more than ever prized by cooped-up Jackson Hole residents needing fresh air and a stretch of the legs.
Bridger-Teton supervisor Tricia O’Connor isn’t keen to close any of the 3.4 million acres she administers, but she has also put the public on notice that it must behave responsibly and healthfully.
“We’d like to keep the forest open,” O’Connor said. “If we can manage this well, we won’t need to do any closures.”
But the valley’s two most popular hikeable ski areas — Snow King and Teton Pass — have been primary areas of public health concern, she said.
“People have been having parties at the top of Snow King,” O’Connor said. “And we’ve heard of get-togethers with beer after a ski on the Pass.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s going to be really hard for our county health department,” she said. “They may say, ‘We need to do something that precludes people from doing that,’ and I don’t want to have to” close them.
Besides being too close to each other, some skiers are also being disrespectful of the resource. O’Connor has heard reports of beer cans strewn along the Snow King skin track, and her husband witnessed the same at Cache Creek.
“And it’s not like there’s a lot of out-of-towners here now,” O’Connor said.
Bridger-Teton officials encourage residents to recreate responsibly by exploring less popular areas, maintaining 6 feet of distance from others, making conservative decisions and recreating locally.