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Compiled from Wyoming News Exchange newspapers 

Fremont County case jump indicates continued community spread


May 7, 2020

An increase of 24 in the number of Fremont County coronavirus cases indicates that the illness is continuing to spread in the community, county officials said.

The Wyoming Department of Health reported Wednesday that the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state grew by 27 to total 479, pushed almost entirely by the increase in Fremont County.

Dr. Brian Gee, Fremont County’s health officer, said the increase in cases in the county was the result of “contact tracing,” tracking down people who have been in contact with people with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“After speaking with those involved with contact tracing, this would suggest continued community spread is occurring in parts of the county,” he said in a news release.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Fremont County had 155 cases; Laramie County had 109; Teton County had 67; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 16; Converse County had 14; Sheridan and Sweetwater counties had 12; Johnson had 11; Albany had eight; Lincoln had seven; Uinta had six; Carbon, Crook and Washakie had five; Goshen had three, and Big Horn had two. Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties each had one case.

Platte and Weston counties remain free of any confirmed cases of the illness.

The number of recoveries in both people with laboratory-confirmed cases and those with “probable” cases of coronavirus increased slightly on Wednesday, growing by seven to total 416. The number included 295 recoveries among people with laboratory-confirmed cases and 121 among people with “probable” cases, people who have not been tested for coronavirus but have shown symptoms and are known to have been in contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case.

In addition to the 452 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming, the Health Department said the state has 152 unconfirmed “probable” cases.

An increase in confirmed cases was also reported Wednesday in Campbell County, where one new case cast some doubt on the county’s request for a variance to public health rules to allow the operation of bars and restaurants.

The patient is reportedly a teenage female who had contact with a large number of people who are considered to be at high risk for complications of coronavirus.

The county had tested 40 of the people who had contact with the patient as of Wednesday night and was to test another 31 on Thursday.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, said she will need to see the results of the contact tracing before she can approve the county’s request to allow restaurants and bars to open.

“I am, in general, supportive of the provisions in the orders, but think that we need more time to understand the current situation before they get signed,” Harrist said in an email to Campbell County commissioners.

In other developments:

More openings: Four counties have won state approval to open bars and restaurants for limited operation. Goshen, Niobrara, Uinta and Hot Springs counties all won approval of the exemptions their officials sought to the statewide business restrictions adopted in mid-March. Goshen County restaurants will be allowed to serve customers at outdoor tables. Uinta, Niobrara and Hot Springs counties have won approval for restaurant patrons to be served at inside tables. In all cases, the number of people at a table will be limited to six and tables must be kept six feet apart. Plans by Goshen and Uinta counties to allow churches to hold services were also approved, as long as safety guidelines are observed.

Health facility construction: Some legislators are eyeing the emergency federal coronavirus relief funds as a way to help health care facilities statewide. Legislators are examining plans to use $15 million for work at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston and the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander. Under the proposal, the state hospital would start providing short-term psychiatric care for Wyoming residents and the Life Resource Center would provide long-term care for patients with unstable housing or medical situations. The Legislature is expected to meet for a special session later this month to determine how to spend the $1.25 billion Wyoming is to receive from the federal assistance package.

Proper planning: A community development specialist at the University of Wyoming is urging local governments to begin planning for a post-coronavirus economy. Roger Coupal, speaking to Fremont County officials, said officials should use this time to examine new opportunities for growth. In Fremont County, as an example, plentiful water in the spring could open the door for value-added crops, “high-value herbs and fruits” or even commercial trout production. He also predicted a resurgence in the tourism industry once the pandemic lifts. “There’s pent up demand right now,” he said. “People want to get out.”

Waste testing: Cody officials plan to test wastewater at the city’s treatment plant to get an idea of the extent of coronavirus in the area. The city recently bought a device that tests wastewater for coronavirus and plan to use it in the coming months to sift through human waste for signs of COVID-19. Bill Crampton, Park County’s public health nurse, said the devise will measure the presence of the virus in parts per million, allowing officials to determine the extent of the virus’ presence in the Cody population.

Public help: A Laramie fund designed to provide grants and loans to small businesses has been adjusted to allow it to accept public donations. The Laramie City Council on Tuesday agreed to allow public donations to its COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program. The program is designed to help struggling businesses and since its establishment in April, city staff said they have been approached by private individuals seeking to donate. The city donated $200,000 for the program’s launch, as did the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

Virus viral: A Thermopolis woman is receiving attention from around the world after her coronavirus-based parody of a song became popular on social media. Jenie Borders said she was at the end of “one of those days” with her three children when she recorded her own lyrics to the song “Dance Monkey.” The lyrics outline the problems of being restricted to her home with three children who cannot understand why they cannot go outside to play with their friends. Borders’ video of her singing the lyrics appeared on the Today Show’s Parents page and has had more than 3 million views since then.

Graduation: School officials around Wyoming continue to eye non-traditional options for graduation ceremonies, figuring out ways around social distancing requirements. In Worland, graduating seniors in vehicles will take part in a parade on Sunday, May 17, to be observed by family and friends lining the streets. Graduation ceremony comments will be broadcast by FM radio.

Hand sanitizer: Wyoming Whiskey has joined the ranks of Wyoming distillers helping to produce hand sanitizer. The distillery near Thermopolis is producing a base spirit that can be further refined to 95% alcohol to be used in the hand sanitizer.

Rodeos: Officials with regular summer rodeos across the state are beginning to put their plans in place for operation in the coming year. The Cody Nite Rodeo, a fixture for more than 80 years, has announced it will begin its season on June 15, 15 days later than usual. “That gives us time to enact some safety protocols,” said Marc Thompson, a member of the Cody Stampede Board of Directors. “Making sure we’re keeping everyone safe — contestants, employees and of course all the rodeo fans that will be showing up.”

Meanwhile, Phil Wilson, organizer of the Jackson Hole Rodeo, said he is not sure yet whether the rodeo will run two nights a week through the summer as it has for years. Wilson said he does not expect the rodeo to begin on its scheduled start date of May 23. “What we’re trying to do is be safe, but at the same time we’d like to open up and get as many dates as we can,” he told members of the Jackson Town Council.


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