Pandemic hits one-year anniversary
Response center winds down, vaccine program moves into third phase
March 18, 2021
A year ago this week, an emergency operations center (EOC) was activated in Crook County to handle the impending arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. This marked the beginning of an era in which toilet paper was more precious than gold and shaking hands was no longer the simplest way to greet your friends.
A day before the EOC opened, on March 12 Governor Mark Gordon signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency. Visitation was locked down at the hospital and long-term care, schools were closed until further notice and businesses and government offices began to lock their front doors.
While the rest of us figured out what lockdown would mean for our daily schedules, the EOC was working on bringing testing kits and hand sanitizer to the county, while making sure personal protective equipment was available for medical, emergency and law enforcement personnel even during the time when supply was scarce.
The EOC also coordinated shipment of the vaccine, answered questions about the virus, worked closely with the hospital district, kept the community and businesses up to date on state health orders, disseminated information about the pandemic and, of course, issued quarantine and isolation orders and took charge of the contact tracing necessary to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“The purpose of the EOC was to assist the community in mitigating the impacts of the virus on the community as well as provide emergency support and services when the existing community resources were unable to do so,” states a joint press release from Crook County Emergency Management and Public Health Nursing to mark this one-year anniversary.
This week also sees that coordination effort come to an end. The EOC ceased to be operational on March 13 and responsibility for the county’s COVID-19 response was turned over to Public Health.
A Year of COVID-19
Crook County did not see any instances of COVID-19 until April 4 and confirmed cases remained low until the fall, when the rate of new cases began to increase. A year later, the county has reported a total of 387 confirmed cases and 32 probables, with 11 deaths caused by the virus.
Only one of those cases was documented over the last week. However, Crook County Public Health confirms that it actually dates from February, was reported late and is no longer active.
Wyoming as a whole has now seen 46,846 lab confirmed cases and 8481 probables, which means that roughly one in every ten citizens of this state is believed to have been infected by COVID-19 over the course of the year. Of those patients, 691 have died.
State statistics over the course of the pandemic have shown that 70.2% of those who have died had underlying health conditions that made them more susceptible to serious symptoms. An estimated 43.7% of deaths were in patients over the age of 80, with 30.8% of deaths among those in the 70 to 79 age group.
COVID-19 related deaths were relatively rare during the first few months of the pandemic, ramping up significantly in October to reach an all-time high of 55 in one week between December 6 and 12. The trajectory began to fall immediately after.
The peak in deaths matched the overall picture of new infections in Wyoming, which began to climb in September. The most new confirmed cases announced on a single day was 931 on November 9.
State statistics show that the most common known cause of infection was contact with a known case, which accounts for 34.5% of people who tested positive. An estimated 21% are known to have been infected via community spread.
While the most deaths occurred in patients over the age of 80, this was also the age group with the fewest number of lab confirmed cases at 3.4%. The group with the highest percentage of lab confirmed cases was 19- to 29-year-olds at 19.9%.
The pandemic picture has been brighter over the last few weeks, partly due to the continuing vaccine program across the nation. In Wyoming, 116,538 people have now received their first vaccine dose and 73,701 of those people are fully vaccinated.
In Crook County, 1030 people have now received their first dose and 736 of those people are fully vaccinated. The county has begun to move into Phase 1c of the vaccination program, which includes people who are homeless or live in congregate care or living settings, people aged 50-64, people with certain medical conditions and critical infrastructure workers.