State breaks daily COVID-19 case record
Crook County adds ninth case; three more deaths in Wyoming
July 23, 2020
Crook County has recorded its ninth instance of COVID-19, an adult male who contracted the virus at a family gathering, as the state continues to see the daily number of new cases trend upwards. On Monday, Wyoming broke its record by a notable margin when 62 new cases were recorded in one day.
Daily statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) now regularly show new case counts in the mid to high 30s or higher. The trend demonstrates a significant increase from the early days of the pandemic, when new cases were consistently below ten per day.
The ninth case of the coronavirus in Crook County was reported on July 16. Due to medical privacy laws, it is not known whether this new case is linked to the eighth recorded case, which was reported two days earlier as a symptomatic adult female and was also linked to a family gathering.
Anyone who may have been exposed to the two cases will be contacted by WDH or Crook County Public Health.
Three new deaths have been reported in Wyoming over the last week in relation to the pandemic. The first, announced on July 16, was an older woman from Sweetwater County who was known to have health conditions known to put patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
The second death was reported on the same day and involved a Fremont County man who was also known to have health conditions, and who had been hospitalized in another state when he died. The third death was added to the state’s statistics on June 21; at time of going to press, no additional information was yet available.
“Our numbers, maybe not as much but certainly like other places in the country, are ticking up,” said Governor Mark Gordon last week. Wyoming has certainly seen an impact from July 4, he said.
The governor described himself as “sick and tired” of hearing that people who have passed away due to the coronavirus would have died anyway. Visibly emotional on the matter during his press conference, he stated that he has been receiving emails from people stating this and claiming their rights are being violated by the state’s guidance to social distance and wear face coverings.
“There is no constitutional right that says you can put others in harm’s way,” Gordon said. “Let’s behave and let’s be mindful of others. That’s the country I grew up in, that’s the neighborhood I grew up in.”
The Centers for Disease Control have plainly said that wearing a mask allows businesses to stay open and life to continue, he said. Wyoming does not want to see its economy shut down again, he continued, which won’t happen through a state order, but because the staff at businesses get sick.
“You know what? Wear a mask,” he said, adding that it’s the constitutional right of any business to require patrons to do so while on the premises and, “By God, I’m going to respect that”. Many of the nation’s largest retailers are now doing this, including Walmart, Menards, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Best Buy, Costco, Home Depot, CVS and Starbucks.
“There are some who want to go argue that point, but let’s remember our Constitution,” Gordon said, decrying the “obnoxious individuals” who argue the constitutionality of businesses requiring masks.
However, Gordon stopped short of saying he would consider a statewide mask order, commenting that he has faith in the people of Wyoming that, when presented with the information they need, they will be respectful. He said he is not particularly inclined to a statewide order but, if a local request is made, he will work with them; Teton County’s mask order was approved on Monday.
The alternative to masks, Gordon said, is the risk of further outbreaks. He was adamant that individuals do not have the constitutional right to risk others’ lives, no matter their current state of health.
“If somebody has diabetes, does another individual have the constitutional right to make sure they die prematurely? I don’t see that,” he said.
Referring again to the “strange” emails he has received, he noted that people tell him he needs to prepare to meet the Lord and should do that every day.
“Well ok, I do, but I’m not sure you need to assist me meeting the Lord,” he said, continuing that our Constitution was designed to make sure that we ensure the common good.
“Rights don’t mean that I don’t have any responsibilities,” he said. “Rights imply responsibilities and people need to take responsibility.”
Another of the six metrics that the state uses to make decisions about the pandemic has been upgraded to “concerning”. The number of new cases has never been lowered from this top level, but the total number of COVID-19 admissions reported by hospitals had until recently been marked as “stable”.
Hospital admissions rose to a high of 19 on July 17, which was the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Wyoming since mid-April. By July 20, this number had dropped back down to 13.
The reason this is concerning, said Gordon, is that it’s important to make sure our medical facilities can continue to function for every patient. We need to make sure that a person who breaks their leg doesn’t go to the emergency room and find they cannot be seen because it’s filled with COVID-19 patients.
“We were well on our way to relieving all of our orders and now we’re seeing these concerning trends,” said the governor, attributing the increased rate of new cases to the more “casual attitudes” people are taking towards the pandemic.
Questioned as to whether the active case number has been trending downwards throughout July, Gordon commented at the press conference that this number bounces around and has indeed shown signs of dropping by small increments during this time. However, he said, what is concerning is that Wyoming started July with an active case count around 250 and then bounced up close to 400.
On Tuesday, however, the active case count reached 544.
According to state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health lab has increased in capacity and can now perform testing on at least 750 samples per day. The lab is also expanding with other types of testing, such as saliva, and is looking for cases proactively to find outbreaks early and manage them.
WDH also hopes to expand surveillance testing of waste water, she said, which can give an idea of the presence and prevalence of the disease and thus inform distribution of testing and other measures. Some places are already doing this, she said, and the priority will then be larger communities followed by anyone else who is interested.