Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Stricter pandemic measures expected

County death total rises to four, case count continues to climb


November 19, 2020

Governor Mark Gordon has indicated that stricter state health orders will be coming soon in reaction to the worsening pandemic across Wyoming and most of the Midwest. What exactly will be contained in those orders has yet to be specified, but all options are said to be on the table.

“I’m very concerned and angry about what’s happening to the conditions in our state. Health, business and our civic wellbeing are all being tested in ways we have not seen before,” said Gordon during a press conference on Friday.

So far, said the governor, Wyoming has relied on personal responsibility to keep the pandemic in check. He told citizens to ask themselves: has that really been working?

“My problem is that, if we can’t rely on you, we’re going to have to do something else,” he said, announcing a one-week extension on current health orders while next steps are carefully considered.

“There will be changes,” he said. “They will be more restrictive.”

As to whether the orders will include a mask mandate similar to ones issued by other states in recent days, including North Dakota, Montana and Colorado, the governor said this has yet to be decided.

“All things are on the table,” he said. “We want to make sure that we address this issue before we completely lose all ability to respond to health crises.”

Overwhelmed Healthcare

Of major concern, said the governor, is the strain that the state’s healthcare system now finds itself under – and it’s getting worse. Deaths are now coming in groups of tens, he said, while Wyoming is seeing the most hospitalizations of any time during the pandemic and hospitals are experiencing capacity issues and in some cases putting up tents to deal with the overflow.

Healthcare workers are also under pressure, he said, and, “All of this spells trouble for our citizens.”

He pointed out that Wyoming’s ability to provide healthcare depends on what’s happening in its surrounding states, because patients often seek care from larger facilities across the borders, and the situation is uniformly bad in those states.

Montana, Idaho and Utah are now experiencing runs on their hospital capacity, said Gordon, and South Dakota is not just overrun but has begun sending patients to Wyoming.

To ensure adequate staffing, Gordon recently directed $10 million in CARES Act funding to bring additional personnel to the state. Those staff are not as trained on the local situation, he pointed out, which diminishes our capability to respond to the crisis.

“Medical staff across the state are strained and exhausted. There is an immediate need to bring in additional help to ease the burden shouldered by our healthcare professionals,” said Eric Boley, President of the Wyoming Healthcare Association, in a press release.

Most deaths are happening within long term care units, Gordon said. This was the case in Crook County on Saturday, when two deaths within the nursing home at Crook County Memorial Hospital were added to the state’s statistics.

The pandemic is causing isolation and depression for residents of long term care units, said the governor. “We are also putting them at greater risk because we are being knuckleheads about this,” he added.

Statistics Worsening

The two deaths in Crook County’s nursing home, and one additional death of an older Crook County man reported on Tuesday, were announced during a week when official cases of COVID-19 continued to climb locally. On Wednesday, Crook County was the second highest county in Wyoming for new cases with a total of 11 reported.

As well as 63 new confirmed cases across the week, six probable cases were added to the tally. This brings Crook County’s total number of cases to 220 confirmed and 19 probable.

Meanwhile, daily cases statewide continue to be high. For the first time, the number topped 1000 on November 10, coming in at 1131 in a single day.

Active cases have also continued to climb, passing the 10,000 mark on Monday. Hospitalizations meanwhile peaked at 204 on November 17; within Crook County Memorial Hospital, the number of infected patients has fluctuated between two and three for most of the week.

An additional 41 deaths have been added to Wyoming’s statistics this week. All but four were older adults; 12 have not been confirmed as having health conditions that put them at higher risk; and 19 were residents of long-term care facilities.

Curbing the Spread

Governor Gordon was visibly aggravated by the increased spread of the pandemic during Friday’s press conference, and placed blame on misinformation and citizens’ refusal to follow guidance for social distancing, masks and hygiene. For every piece of information we get about the virus, he said, someone comes along with a “bogus” reason to discount it.

“We’ve relied on people to be responsible, and they’re being irresponsible,” he said. It’s time for Wyoming to get serious about what we’re doing to curb the spread, he said.

“Ask yourself, do you feel better today about what’s going on in this state than you felt maybe in June or July or August, when we were one of the lowest states for infection rates?” he asked, noting that Wyoming is now the fourth worst state in the nation when it comes to infection rates.

“We were one of three states that could have a state fair – we had a carnival going. Ask yourself: do you think we could do that now?”

Gordon pointed out that letting the pandemic get out of hand is bad for businesses, both in terms of making a profit and preventing its workforce from becoming compromised. More businesses have had to close due to illness among the staff than from any of the state’s health orders, he said.

He also pointed out that people are now crossing the border to Colorado to shop because it’s safer. “How’s that for our economy?” he asked.

The state poured $450 million in CARES Act funding into small businesses to help them adjust and survive, said Gordon. That money runs out in just over a month and there is nothing on the horizon to replace it.

In terms of businesses surviving the next year, he said, “There isn’t a heck of a lot of hope out there.”

The governor once again implored Wyomingites to follow social distancing guidelines.

“I will also point out that the White House urges the use of masks,” he said.

The goal of the upcoming more-restrictive state orders, said Gordon, is to ensure businesses survive and schools stay open while keeping the populace protected.

“It’s not forever,” he said. “There is a vaccine on the horizon.”


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