Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

COVID-19: pandemic worsens across state

Governor warns that worsening caseload will harm state economy


October 8, 2020

During a week in which President Donald Trump was infected and hospitalized, COVID-19 cases across the United States neared 7.5 million and the death rate neared 210,000, the spread of the pandemic across Wyoming has gathered speed. New case numbers remain high as the active case count continues to grow and more people are currently hospitalized due to the virus than at any other point during the pandemic.

We are now seeing a “very serious deterioration in conditions,” said Governor Mark Gordon on Monday, expressing concern for the impact this will have on the state’s economic recovery.

“What that means, plain and simple…is that fewer people are going to feel safe in going out to supper and going to the store,” he said.

Increased Spread

Across the state, the active case load has continued to rise over the last week as positive tests topped 100 almost every day. The highest number of new confirmed cases recorded was 131 on Sunday.

This has caused the active caseload in Wyoming to jump dramatically. On Monday, active cases reached 1304 – over double the number on the state’s watch list just a few weeks ago.

Three new deaths have also been reported in Wyoming, two in Natrona and one in Campbell County. All three men had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk; however, only one was an older male and one had not been hospitalized.

“We are now starting to see those concerning trends that we have been trying to prevent all along,” said state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist.

Wyoming is now averaging 98 new cases per day, said the governor, “which is the most since the pandemic began”. Four counties currently have over 100 active cases, while Albany has more than 250.

Harrist noted that outbreaks are now occurring in colleges and the university, at social gatherings and in workplaces. This has been occurring all along, but “it’s happening more now,” she said.

On Monday, hospitalizations reached 36, which “almost is twice what we saw earlier,” Gordon said. The impact of these increases could be significant, said the governor.

Local Cases

Crook County continues to experience a minor outbreak, which has seen seven new cases diagnosed over the last week. Two new confirmed diagnoses were added to the local tally on Wednesday, one on Saturday and four on Monday.

The new cases brought the local totals to 46 confirmed and seven probable cases. At time of going to press, 11 of those cases remained active.

National Guard Brought In

“We have had some strains on our system,” Gordon said, referring to the ability for the state to complete all necessary contact tracing. For this reason, the governor has authorized the use of the Wyoming National Guard for the next 30 days to provide assistance with contact tracing.

The situation is “extremely concerning”, Gordon said, adding, “Folks, this is a serious call to action.”

Restrictions have slowly been loosened because it was believed that people would do the right thing, said Gordon. He still believes this to be the case, but issued a reminder that the need to close schools would have an economic impact, as does the fact that many don’t feel safe to go out and spend money.

“Our economy cannot do well nor will return to normal until we have a better handle on this virus,” he said.

Gordon urged Wyomingites to adhere to guidelines for social distancing, face coverings and hygiene.

“These are the same actions that I’ve been speaking of for months – you know what they are,” he said.

Harrist acknowledged that people are tired of the pandemic and wish it would be over, but said it’s important to prevent COVID-19 from spreading past manageable levels. She pointed to Montana, where the healthcare system is being challenged and the largest hospital in the state has added beds in an unused building to cope.

In recent days, “we are hearing about local hospitals starting to feel the pressure,” Harrist said. Most hospitals in Wyoming are small “with just a handful of beds” that are not just needed for virus sufferers.

Harrist pointed to the “grim numbers” as evidence that, “When people don’t follow our recommendations, the risk of spread and of the consequences can be high.”

New Guidance

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated their official guidance on how COVID-19 spreads. Previously, it was thought that the virus mainly spreads through physical closeness with an infected person.

In this situation, transmission occurs directly when the infected person produces “respiratory droplets” through coughing, singing, talking, sneezing or breathing.

While the CDC still believes this is the most common way for the virus to spread, some COVID-19 sufferers appear to have infected others who were more than six feet away.

Through this data, it is now understood that airborne transmission is possible, particularly in situations where people gather in enclosed spaces without proper ventilation.

“Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” says the new guidance. In other words, the moisture particles in a patient’s breath can “hang” in the air for a certain amount of time, passing through them, an uninfected person could then breathe them in.

Airborne transmission is an important way for some of the most infectious known diseases to spread, including measles, chicken pox and tuberculosis. The CDC believes that, in the case of COVID-19, airborne transmission mainly occurs in unventilated spaces or when the infected person was breathing heavily while, for instance, singing or exercising.

“Under these circumstances, scientists believe that the amount of infectious smaller droplet and particles produced by the people with COVID-19 became concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people,” says the guidance.

“The people who were infected were in the same space during the same time or shortly after the person with COVID-19 had left.”


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