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State sees spike in COVID-19 cases

Records set in daily and active cases; new infections in Crook County


October 1, 2020

Crook County’s caseload of COVID-19 patients has continued to rise over the past week, while Wyoming as a whole repeatedly broke its records for daily and active cases. The county’s ten new cases further cement concerns that the coronavirus is now very much present but largely undetected throughout this community.

One new case within the county was announced by Crook County Public Health on September 22. The male patient was described as showing mild symptoms of the virus.

On September 23, Public Health announced three more lab-confirmed cases. Two of these tested positive during pre-surgery screening and were not displaying any symptoms of the virus.

The third was described as a female with mild symptoms. The three cases were not linked to each other and were not related to any of the other cases confirmed in Crook County.

On September 25, Public Health announced two more cases, both symptomatic and said to be recovering at home.

An additional case was added to the state tally on Saturday, followed by three new cases on Sunday. Of the four – none of which were linked to each other or any other Crook County case, according to Public Health – one was asymptomatic but the other three were experiencing symptoms.

One probable case was identified in the county on Monday.

This brought Crook County’s total number of cases reported over the last week to ten (including nine confirmed and one probable). Overall, Crook County has had 38 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic and seven probable cases.

It is still unknown what percentage of people who contract COVID-19 will not experience any symptoms but are able to spread the virus to others. That two of the week’s new cases were diagnosed only during pre-surgery screening, and the lack of a known connection between all the new cases in Crook County, is further evidence that COVID-19 is now spreading undetected within the community.

When the status of a community changes in such a way that medical experts can no longer track the links from patient to patient, it is known as “community spread”.

This is considered a warning sign of a potential outbreak, as it is an indication that asymptomatic carriers of the virus – or those with mild symptoms who do not realize they have contracted the coronavirus – are active within the community and able to spread the disease without being aware of it.

The number of new cases recorded in a single day in Wyoming hit a new record on September 23, with 137 lab-confirmed cases added to the tally. This shot the state’s active case count to a new record of 842.

By Thursday, the second day in a row where numbers topped the hundred mark, the number of active cases in the state had almost doubled since mid-September. New case numbers remained high as the weekend approached, with 97 reported on Friday.

Sunday saw records broken again, with a sizeable jump to 162 new confirmed cases listed in a single day. Wyoming also tipped over a new milestone as the total number of active cases in the state – those people who have contracted the virus and have not yet clinically recovered – reached 1064.

Another indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19, the percentage of tests that come back positive has once again increased to 3.6% after a period of steady decline.

“It’s not due to more testing,” confirmed Gordon. Rather, it is due to there being more positivity.

Gordon noted that hospitalizations have also begun to rise again. Between September 21 and 25 (the last date reported at time of going to press), the number of people hospitalized in Wyoming for COVID-19 remained above 20 on all but one day.

A total of 23 people, for example, were hospitalized within Wyoming on September 21, a number that had not been reached since April.

The increases in infections seen across the state have not come from a single activity or issue, Gordon said. They are being recorded in a variety of settings, from extra-curricular activities to businesses and social gatherings.

They are also not occurring equally everywhere, he said. There are still counties where the presence of the virus remains very low.

“One place we’re not seeing widespread issues at this time is within school buildings,” he said. “The measures we’re taking in schools appear to be working.”

The number of deaths due to the coronavirus in Wyoming reached 50 on September 23. An older man from Big Horn County died after being exposed to the virus in Wyoming and hospitalized in another state; he was known to have health conditions that put him at higher risk of serious illness.

Gordon emphasized on Thursday that deaths from COVID-19 are not the only concern. The virus can cause long-term symptoms that should not be minimized, he said, using as an example a friend who contracted the virus some time ago and still gets out of breath climbing the stairs.

Nevertheless, Governor Mark Gordon indicated that the next round of public health orders will see “significant changes”, including an expansion on seating capacity in restaurants to allow businesses to adjust to the coming fall, when outdoor dining becomes less feasible.

Released on Monday, the new orders go into effect on October 1 and increase the number of people who may sit together at a restaurant table from six to eight; tables must be positioned in such a way as to ensure people at different tables are always separated by at least six feet of distance, though this does not apply to booths. The orders also increase group sizes at events such as concerts and rodeos from six to eight.

State health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist has warned that the winter may see a surge in COVID-19 cases, as respiratory illnesses spread more easily in the colder months.

“I think a lot of activities can be done indoors in a safe way if we follow those basic safety measures,” she said last week. However, she continued, we will learn as we go over the next couple of months and determine what changes can be made to the state’s health orders based on what occurs.


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