First COVID-19 case identified in Crook County
Statewide lockdown orders to continue until April 30
April 9, 2020
As case numbers continue to rise both across the state and worldwide, Crook County announced its first confirmed COVID-19 patient at the end of last week. Wyoming is now experiencing a deeper level of self-isolation, with stricter rules placed on businesses and arrivals to the state now asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“Crook County has identified its first positive case of coronavirus,” said a press release issued on Saturday by Crook County Public Health, which is monitoring the patient in conjunction with the Wyoming Department of Health and Crook County Medical Services District.
“No information will be released about the individual, who is isolated and recovering at home. We expect that this will not be the only case in Crook County.”
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, at time of going to press the total confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus sat at 216 across 18 counties, having climbed steadily day by day. A quarter of those cases – 54 in total – were added to the tally over the weekend as Wyoming’s numbers began to climb more steeply.
“We are strongly encouraging everyone to shelter at home and follow the social distance and isolation guidelines,” said County Health Officer Dr. Larsen on Monday. “There should be no non-essential travel.”
On Friday, Governor Mark Gordon held a press conference to explain his decision, made in concert with state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, to extend statewide orders until April 30.
“The decision to extend these orders was made to save lives and keep people at home,” Governor Gordon said in an accompanying press release.
“We are seeing community transmission of COVID-19 occur around the state and we will continue to see more confirmed cases in the weeks to come. This action will help lower the rate of transmission and protect both our healthcare system and the healthcare workers we all rely on.”
The orders close public places including schools, prohibit gatherings of ten or more people in a confined space and close bars, restaurants, coffee shops and some personal service businesses. Food establishments may provide delivery and curbside take-out only.
Any individual coming from another state or country for a purpose that is not related to work must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes Wyoming citizens returning to the state.
Gordon explained during the press conference that this directive is intended to stop people who do not reside in Wyoming from coming to the state to isolate during the pandemic.
“We know that travel from another state or country is a source of COVID-19 infections in Wyoming,” Governor Gordon said. “Visitors from neighboring states have strained the resources of many Wyoming communities so we are asking them to do the right thing to protect the health of our citizens and the resources of our rural healthcare facilities.”
“With the increasing number of coronavirus infections, we would like to reassure the community that we are available for consultation,” says CEO Nathan Hough of Crook County Medical Services District.
“If you have symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face or any other signs of any emergency please seek medical attention right away.”
CCMSD has telehealth available as well as normal clinic visits.
“If you are unsure if you need to be seen by a provider, please call the hospital at 307-283-3501 and dial ‘0’ for coronavirus screening,” Hough says.
“Community members who are screened as high risk but are able to stay home will again be contacted by clinical staff 48 hours later to assure your health is stable.”
Hough reiterates the advice of the state and Public Health to wash hands frequently, especially when in public and after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze; and try to avoid touching your face (and wash your hands before and after if you must touch it).
“The Centers for Disease Control now recommends wearing a cloth face cover if you have to be around people in public,” he adds. “The CDC notes not to place a cloth face cover on those under 2, those with trouble breathing or anyone who would have difficulty removing the mask without help.”
Hough also expresses gratitude on behalf of CCMSD for all the donations made by the community.
In response to the new directives, several local businesses changed their operations to meet with the order to only offer curbside take-out. The Longhorn Grill & Saloon, the Buffalo Jump Steakhouse and Cowgirl Pizza were among those who announced they would remain open while following the new rules.
Due to family responsibilities and the difficulty of functioning under the restrictions, Bearlodge Bakery and Greenhouse announced a temporary closure.
“At this point, it is too hard to do business the way they have us set up and I’m trying to school my kids,” says owner Joni Spaulding.
To find a list of businesses along with current opening hours and changes to operation, visit the Sundance Times website. The list is updated regularly as the ongoing situation necessitates.
With the lockdown now stretching out for another month, the Crook County Commissioners hosted a meeting of elected county officials last week to consider how to serve citizens.
According to County Clerk Linda Fritz, one solution that will be implemented to allow citizens access to county departments is to install countertops in the vestibule of the courthouse. These will allow customers to safely hand over paperwork to county officials and conduct other necessary business.
Each counter will have a plexi-glass sneeze guard and instructions will be posted that only two people may enter the vestibule at one time. Customers should call ahead for assistance, says Fritz.
Crook County’s food pantries are still in need of donations, particularly for items including mac n cheese, peanut butter, canned meat and fruit, pasta and pasta sauce.
Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies has scheduled an increased number of mobile pantries to help the households in greatest need of food. The new “drive-thru” model involves each household receiving a box of shelf-stable items, a bag of fresh produce and a bag of protein products.
If you are in need of food, contact either of the two local partner agencies: Moorcroft Interfaith Community at 217-251-1182 or Crook County Council of County Services at 283-3376. The mobile pantry is scheduled to be in Moorcroft at the old school building on April 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Public Health is looking for volunteers who would be willing to assist someone who may be quarantined or isolated at home in the future due to the coronavirus. Names and numbers of people in all Crook County communities who would be able to pick up and delivery groceries or supplies and deliver them to the person’s doorstep are now being collected. Call 283-1142 ex. 4 and ask for Peggy.
Back to the Classroom…Sort Of
Meanwhile, the Crook County School District has begun its online learning system.
“We are beginning our Adaptive Learning Plan and classes are resuming as if we were in session,” says Superintendent Mark Broderson.
Academic studies began again on April 6 and grading is once again taking place for all classes just as it did while school was in session. Teachers have been working directly with parents to ensure the new system works in each child’s individual case.
In northeast Wyoming, as well as Crook County’s first official case, Campbell County was reporting 9 cases but Weston County still had no cases at time of going to press. In total, Wyoming had reported 216 positive cases.
The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has announced that, due to a potential shortage of tests, it would only be testing samples from high-priority patients, health care workers and first responders. A total of 2481 tests had been completed at the laboratory and 1523 had been reported by commercial labs.
Laramie County had the most confirmed cases at 47, followed by Teton with 41, Fremont with 38, Natrona with 26 and Sheridan with 12. 62 of Wyoming’s confirmed cases are reported to have recovered.
At time of going to press, Wyoming was the only state without a confirmed death due to COVID-19.
Advice for county residents
Crook County Public Health, where the county’s designated Emergency Operations Center is located, has issued the following advice to all county residents:
Stay home as much as you possibly can. It’s ok to spend time in your yard or take walks, just practice social distancing. Stay six feet away from people, and limit that six feet to ten minutes.
Avoid groups of more than ten people.
Stay home when sick and avoid contact with others unless you need to seek medical attention. If you have a fever, cough or influenza-like illness, regardless of travel history should call Crook County Medical Services District at 307-283-3501 x 0 for a phone screening.
Please do not report to the hospital or your healthcare provider without calling first unless it is an immediate life-threatening situation.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This process breaks down the lipid on the virus cell wall and washes it off your hands.
Cover your coughs and sneezes.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, faucets, sinks, phones, keypads, etc.
Follow advice from the CDC on how to protect yourself.