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Fremont County coronavirus numbers high due to testing, official says


May 7, 2020

The high number of coronavirus cases on Fremont County reflects the amount of testing done in the county, according to a health official.

Dr. Paul Ebbert, chief medical officer for Wind River Family and Community Health Care, told the Riverton Ranger that more coronavirus testing has been conducted in Fremont County than in any other county in the state.

“We’ve done about one-third of the testing in the state and we have about one-third of the (confirmed) cases in the state,” he said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Fremont County has led the state for several weeks. As of Monday afternoon’s daily update, the Wyoming Department of Health said 180 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Fremont County since the illness was first detected in the state in mid-March, more than one-third of the state’s total number of confirmed cases of 510.

Ebbert said his clinic on the Wind River Indian Reservation conducted most of the county’s tests and added the clinic paid on its own to obtain testing materials from a large commercial laboratory.

“Some people think we’re hoarding tests, or we have some access to tests people don’t have,” he said. “That’s not true. We decided early on we were willing to pay.”

Statewide, more than 14,000 tests have been conducted, with most, 7,372, being conducted by private commercial laboratories and the remainder, 6,680, being conducted by the state Public Health Laboratory.

As of Monday afternoon, Fremont County had 180 cases; Laramie County had 111; Teton County had 67; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 16; Converse had 14; Sweetwater County had 13; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson had 11; Albany and Lincoln had eight; Uinta County had seven; Carbon, Crook and Washakie had five; Goshen had four, and Big Horn had two. Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties each had one case.

Meanwhile, the number of recoveries recorded since the beginning of the pandemic increased by eight on Monday to total 451.

The Department of Health said 320 recoveries were among patients with confirmed coronavirus cases, while 131 were among patients with “probable” cases — those showing symptoms of the illness and who have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case but have not been tested for the disease.

In addition to Wyoming’s 510 confirmed coronavirus cases, the Department of Health said there were 159 probable cases as of Monday.

In other developments:

Special session: A legislative committee has finished drafting one of the bills that will be examined during the Legislature’s special session, which begins on Friday. The bill would set aside $275 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to set up three programs to help Wyoming-based businesses overcome hardships caused by the pandemic with grants and loans.

Rules are now in place for the operation of the session, which will be live-streamed. The legislators who attend in-person will be required to observe social distancing guidelines. While the public will not be allowed inside the Capitol during the session, the Legislature has agreed to allow some reporters inside to observe the session.

No enforcement: Fremont County’s prosecutor has announced he will not enforce parts of the public health orders put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus. Patrick LeBrun, Fremont County’s attorney, wrote in a statement that his office will not enforce sections of the order that he considers unconstitutional. The orders closing schools and certain businesses such as restaurants and bars are to be relaxed on Friday.

Pay cut: Members of Cheyenne’s city council have voted to allow themselves to take pay 13% pay cuts. The council voted Monday to allow council members to take voluntary cuts to their monthly stipends as a show of solidarity with city employees. The city’s budget has been cut by 13% because of the coronavirus. “That’s the message we want to send to the people of Cheyenne — we’re with you,” said Councilman Ken Esquibel. Council members receive $1,000 per month, so the 13% cut will amount to $130.

Graduation: Natrona County graduating high school seniors will receive their diplomas this year in a drive-in ceremony. School officials announced ceremonies will be held in the parking lot of the Casper Events Center at the end of May. Cars containing the graduates and their families will be allowed to park and then seniors will exit their cars, walk across a stage to get their diplomas and return to their cars. Ceremony comments will be pre-recorded and played on a large screen to be put up in the parking lot.

Events canceled: Central Wyoming College has canceled all of the public events it had scheduled for May and June. CWC administrators said it would be difficult to adhere to coronavirus safety guidelines while hosting events at campus facilities. “We feel it is important for us to make this decision for the greater health of our community and its citizens,” said Lori Ridgway, the college’s public relations director.

Closed: Evanston schools will not reopen during the current school year, officials have decided. Trustees with the Uinta County School District No. 1 agreed May 5 that trying to return students to school buildings would be more disruptive than allowing them to finish the year being taught at home.


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