Wyoming coronavirus cases top 500; majority of counties now have variances
May 7, 2020
Wyoming’s coronavirus case count topped 500 over the weekend as the state Department of Health reported 14 new cases, most of them in Fremont County.
At the same time, restaurants and bars in most of Wyoming’s counties were able to begin limited operations as the state approved exemptions from statewide health orders requested by county health officers.
As of Monday morning, the state’s confirmed coronavirus case count stood at 504, compared to 490 on Friday.
Most of the increase, 12, was seen in Fremont County.
As of Sunday afternoon, Fremont County had 176 cases; Laramie County had 110; Teton County had 67; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 16; Converse County had 14; Sheridan and Sweetwater had 12; Johnson had 11; Albany and Lincoln had eight; Uinta had seven; Carbon, Crook and Washakie had five; Goshen had four, and Big Horn had two. Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties all had one case.
Platte and Weston counties remain free of any confirmed cases of the illness.
The number of recoveries among both those with laboratory-confirmed cases and those with “probable” cases remained steady over the weekend at 443. The number included 312 recoveries among people with confirmed cases and 131 among those with probable cases.
In addition to the 504 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming, the Health Department said there are 158 probable cases.
Meanwhile, restaurants, bars and coffee shops across Wyoming reopened their doors over the weekend as counties won approval for their requests for exemptions or “variances” from the statewide health orders issued in mid-March.
Those orders closed restaurants, bars, coffee houses and other places likely to attract more than 10 people at a time. The orders also limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
The order closing bars and restaurants is to expire statewide on Friday, but county officials were allowed to ask the state for variances to the rules to permit businesses to open earlier.
In every case, restaurants and bars have been allowed to open under strict health guidelines, such as limiting people at a table to six, placing tables six feet apart, requiring servers to wear masks and disinfecting the business several times a day.
Most recently, Albany, Big Horn, Campbell, Converse, Crook, Sublette and Weston counties were allowed to open restaurants and bars for indoor seating.
Churches in Big Horn, Campbell, Crook, Sublette and Weston counties were also allowed to offer services after county officials won a variance from the rule limiting the size of gatherings. However, churches will also have to operate under certain guidelines, including rules that household groups sit at least six feet apart from each other and that those dealing with members of the public wear masks.
Only three counties remain fully under the health orders issued to slow the spread of coronavirus: Fremont, Laramie and Teton, the three counties with the state’s highest number of coronavirus cases.
In other developments:
Special session: Legislative leaders are getting closer to finalizing the rules for the Legislature’s unprecedented special session on Friday. Arrangements are being made for some lawmakers to attend the session in person in Cheyenne, although they will have to follow social distancing guidelines. Some may actually be placed in conference rooms to participate through an online meeting app if the floors of the House and Senate are filled. Many others will remain in their communities and take part through the online meeting app.
Members of the public will not be allowed into the Capitol during the session, but legislative leaders are working out arrangements to allow reporters into the building to cover the event.
School funding: Wyoming will receive $32 million to help resolve the problems created in education because of the coronavirus pandemic. The funding is included in the federal coronavirus relief program. However, if the state takes the money, it will have to maintain school funding levels at the same levels they have been for the past three years, a possible problem given the state’s declining coal industry. The state is looking at asking for a waiver to the requirement.
WyoTech reopening: A training school for the automotive industry in Laramie reopened Monday. WyoTech was closed in mid-March under a statewide health order issued to slow the spread of coronavirus. While most other schools in the state will remain closed through the end of the spring semester, Jadeen Mathis, WyoTech’s director of communications, said WyoTech is large enough maintain social distancing between students. “Currently, we have fewer than 200 students and over 200,000 square feet,” she said.
Coronavirus-free: St. John’s Health in Jackson has no coronavirus patients being treated at this time, according to the hospital’s chief executive officer. Despite the fact that some computer models had predicted a surge in coronavirus cases in Wyoming and Teton County, Paul Beaupre said no patients were being treated for the disease as of Friday. He attributed the lack of patients to the efforts of Teton County residents to self-isolate.
Masks: Western Wyoming College is working on a project to print face masks for first responders. The college will use 3D printers to create masks that will be matched with special filters made in Montana. Five hundred of the masks are to be given to the Sweetwater County Emergency Operations Center for distribution to first responders.
Hospital help: Wyoming’s hospitals have received about $32 million to offset losses they have suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic. The money has come from the federal coronavirus relief act. Hospital revenues have dropped with the decision to stop elective procedures to preserve resources for the treatment of possible coronavirus patients. Hospitals across the state are just now opening up for such procedures.