COVID-19: community spread present in county
School experiences first cases since opening
September 17, 2020
An unprecedented number of new cases of COVID-19 have appeared in Crook County over the last week, including a small outbreak within the school district for the first time since in-person learning resumed. Crook County Public Health has reason to believe that the coronavirus is now spreading within the community.
Twelve new confirmed and one probable case have brought the county’s overall tally to 27 over the last week (26 confirmed, one probable). Of the confirmed cases, 12 are currently active; the probable case is also still active.
The first case reported in Crook County on September 8 was a symptomatic adult male. This represented the first indication that there may be community spread in this area, as his place of infection cannot be determined.
The second case, a symptomatic adult female, is connected to the first. A new probable case reported at the same time had close contact with the symptomatic female and was also experiencing symptoms.
Case four was also announced on Thursday. The adult male was exhibiting mild symptoms and is believed to have been exposed outside the county.
The fifth case had already recovered by the time of Saturday’s announcement. This person was tested out of state and there was a delay in reporting to Wyoming.
The sixth case was a female whose case is currently under investigation.
Monday morning saw an announcement from Public Health that three more cases had been identified, all of them symptomatic females who are recovering at home. On Tuesday, four more cases were added to the tally, all symptomatic adult females who are recovering at home.
Any individual who has potentially had close contact with these new cases will be contacted by the WDH or Public Health.
On Friday, Crook County School District (CCSD) announced that, at the end of fourth week of school, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 had been detected within the schools. The student was tested on September 10 and later identified as the week’s sixth case for Crook County.
The district worked closely with Crook County Public Health to determine next steps and if individuals needed to be quarantined. Public Health has since announced that there is a “small outbreak” within the district.
“CCSD knew the likelihood that there would eventually be positive COVID-19 cases in its schools. Teachers and students have been preparing for remote learning in case quarantining becomes necessary,” said a press release from the district.
“CCSD asks for cooperation in its diligence to keep students and staff members healthy. The positive COVID-19 case reinforces our commitment to following safety procedures.”
Employees within the district will continue to monitor themselves for symptoms and are required to stay home if they are ill. Parents are asked to continue to monitor their children’s health and keep them at home if they display symptoms.
It has not been announced how many of the week’s new cases in Crook County are associated with the school outbreak.
Schools across Wyoming have seen infections since the semester began, but state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said this was to be expected.
“We have seen cases among both students and staff,” she said. However, no schools have yet had to close due to the efforts being made to ensure safety.
The University of Wyoming did have to pause its plans for the semester, however, as gatherings were taking place without any precautions.
“Numerous students tested positive for COVID-19 in a single day,” said Governor Mark Gordon. This led to around 70 active cases, 53 of them off-campus; the university was able to resume its fall return plan on Tuesday.
Further afield, the pandemic picture has appeared to brighten for Wyoming over the last couple of weeks. Governor Gordon commented during a press conference last week that the average number of new cases per day has dropped from 35 to 25. The percentage of tests that come back positive has also improved to 2.1%.
“This is encouraging news, it’s trended down since early August,” he said, cautioning that, even so, it “doesn’t paint a complete picture of the virus in the state.”
Active cases have fluctuated over the last week, for example.
“We continue to see this number bounce around at 600 or so, so that’s a plateau but it’s still a little bit higher than we’d like to see,” Gordon said.
Four new deaths were announced on Monday, one in Natrona County and three in Sheridan County.
Of those deaths, all four were older adult with higher-risk health conditions. Two had not been hospitalized, one had been hospitalized and the fourth died in August after being exposed to the virus in an out-of-state long-term care facility.
New state health orders go into effect this week until September 30 with one change made to permit indoor close-contact group activities and sports to occur.
There are no drastic changes, however. Gordon pointed out that it is only the second week of the school year in many districts and there continues to be some uncertainty as to how effective efforts to curb the spread in schools will be.
Until we have a clearer picture of the impact of in-person learning on the spread of the virus, Gordon said, the state will be cautious. The goal is to ensure in-person learning can continue and that means using all available caution, “so that we don’t have to go backwards.”
With colder weather across most of Wyoming, Harrist also announced last week that the state is working on expanded visitation in long term care units. These expanded guidelines are expected to be announced soon.
Governor Gordon also announced that $829 million of Wyoming’s allocated CARES Act funding has now been expended. The remaining funds will come available on September 15 and “our plan is to ensure that all of these funds are expended by the federal deadline on December 30,” said Gordon.
He indicated assistance for medical facilities and a soon-to-launch ag relief program, as well as expansion of broadband access, among the needs that will likely be filled by the remaining money.
Gordon asked Wyomingites to continue using every caution in their daily activities to help the downward trends continue.
“We’re all kind of tired of this but, at the same time, our care and diligence at this time really can make a difference as we go forward,” he said. “It is my hope that if we continue to make incremental progress, that we can continue to relax the remaining very minimal orders we have in place.”