Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

First COVID-19 death recorded in county


October 29, 2020

It’s not too late to turn this ship around, said state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist last week. Wyoming is seeing a significant surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but we can still slow the spread.

“Six weeks ago, Wyoming was in a much better position with this virus than we are today,” she said, reporting that the 77 deaths seen in the state so far is more than double the worst flu season in decades. However, she said, “I do not think that it’s too late to improve the situation.”

“There is a surge of COVID-19 cases that began early last month and is continuing,” said Governor Mark Gordon. “That is not a curve, it is more or less a straight line heading upwards.”

Wyoming is seeing more cases than at any time before at an average of 152 per day, said the governor. Seven counties now have more than 100 active cases and three have more than 300 active cases.

In fact, he added, there have been days recently where, for the first time, every single Wyoming county has reported at least one new case. For a long time, Wyoming was doing better than its peer states, he said, but, “That’s no longer true.”

Crook County has seen 20 new cases over the last week, including 19 confirmed and one probable, reflecting this continued rise in reported infections across Wyoming. This includes a new local record of seven cases in one day.

October 22 brought a sad milestone: the first death due to COVID-19 was recorded in this county. According to Crook County Public Health, an older adult man died late last month in another state, where he was likely exposed to the virus.

It is unclear whether the man was hospitalized. He was, however, known to have health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness.

“Due to the rise in COVID-19 throughout Crook County and the surrounding areas, Crook County Medical Services District is going to continue with no visitation in the nursing home and hospital at this time,” says Charity Lindholm, Infection Preventionist. “Unfortunately, we are also asking that no trick-or-treaters enter the facility on Halloween. This is for the safety of the residents, staff and community.”

Across Wyoming, more deaths have been recorded this week than during any other week of the pandemic. Seven deaths were recorded on Thursday and nine more on Monday.

All deaths were older adults; it is unclear whether seven of them were hospitalized, while one was not hospitalized. Twelve of the 16 were known to have health conditions recognized as putting someone at higher risk of serious illness. Five were residents of a Big Horn County long-term care facility.

Most of us now knows someone who has been sick, Gordon said in Wednesday’s press conference, and more of us are being exposed daily. On Friday, Wyoming smashed its previous record for new cases in a single day by more than 100, with a daily total of 381.

Monday saw the record broken again with a count of 387 cases. Daily cases topped 200 every day over the last week.

“This many cases will inevitably lead to more COVID-19 hospitalizations, and it has,” Gordon said. On October 27, the number of people hospitalized in Wyoming peaked at an all-time high of 105, more than four times the record set in the early days of the pandemic (23 hospitalized on April 20 and 21). Though the number of patients at Crook County Memorial Hospital reduced from three to zero for a couple of days this week, two patients had been admitted on October 24.

The number of tests coming back with a positive result continues to climb steeply, reaching 4.73% by October 23. This compares to an all-time low of 1.76% on June 22.

According to the governor, an increase in hospitalizations is what the state has been planning for since spring, when the situation team sat down to map out Wyoming’s response. Many facilities have plans to create additional facilities if it becomes necessary, he said, “And in some cases it already has.”

While it is possible to add resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment, Gordon warned that it is not possible to increase the human resources available to Wyoming: hospital employees and first responders. As hospitalizations rise, said the governor, we will see our medical personnel become increasingly strained, possibly to the detriment of their own health.

Gordon asked citizens to take the time to thank their medical personnel for their courage and let them know how much we are going to appreciate them in the coming days.

“We’ve lost our discipline, we’re a little bit scattered at this point,” said Gordon of Wyoming’s adherence to the guidelines. He spoke to many citizens’ unwillingness to wear a mask, commenting that it’s strange to be fine with wearing a hard hat and safety glasses in a mine for safety reasons, but rebel against the idea of wearing a mask; he added that he doesn’t know anyone who would be happy if their surgeon refused to wear a mask.

“If you are a patriot, if you love your country, you will recognize that this is an hour of need,” said Gordon, urging citizens to come together to reduce the spread.


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