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Wyoming coronavirus count up to 270, officials expect surge in late April


April 9, 2020

Wyoming should see a surge in coronavirus cases in the last week of April and peak in mid-May, according to several health officials in the state.

The projection came as Wyoming’s total coronavirus case count increased to 270 as of Monday morning, an increase of 17 over the weekend.

Dr. Nick Stamato, chief of medical staff for Campbell County Health in Gillette, said most of the computer models for the spread of COVID-19 show a surge in cases in the last week of April, with the number cases in the state peaking in the first or second week of May.

Andy Fitzgerald, the hospital’s CEO, said the projections have actually improved over the last few weeks.

“As we’ve preached to our community to stay home, people are adhering to that,” he said. “Projections are headed in the right direction, that curve is flattening. The surges we expected are less today than even a week ago.”

In Fremont County, which has the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, Dr. Brian Gee, the county’s health officer, warned that even after the number of new cases begins to decline, the public emergency will not be over.

“The peak has to come down,” he said. “We’re going to have to maintain these physical distancing tools we’ve been doing … onward into the spring and into the summer.”

As of Monday morning, Wyoming’s confirmed case count, at 270, was the lowest in the nation. Alaska had just two more cases than Wyoming. Wyoming remains the only state in the nation without a death attributed to the virus.

Over the weekend, 17 new cases were reported, including the first cases in Hot Springs and Big Horn counties. The diagnoses in those two counties left only Platte and Weston counties as not recording any coronavirus cases.

As of Monday morning, Laramie County had 58 cases; Teton County had 56; Fremont County had 40; Natrona had 33; Sheridan had 12; Johnson and Campbell had 11; Converse had eight; Sweetwater had seven; Albany, Lincoln and Washakie had five; Carbon and Uinta had four, and Crook and Goshen had three. Big Horn, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties had one case each.

The number of those patients who had fully recovered also increased, growing by nine over the weekend to total 138 on Sunday.

The highest number of recoveries was found in Teton County at 35.

In other developments:

Jobless fund: An analysis by the Tax Foundation reported that Wyoming’s unemployment insurance trust fund is by far the strongest in the nation. The Foundation reported that, based on unemployment claims filed through April 4, the fund can pay for unemployment claims for 321 weeks — a little more than six years. The fund contains more than $431 million. Florida’s unemployment insurance fund contains enough money to pay claims for 90 weeks, putting that state in second place behind Wyoming. California is in last place with enough money to pay claims for less than one month.

Court restrictions: Wyoming’s Supreme Court has extended its restrictions on court operations until May 31. The court last week said that all in-person proceedings in circuit and district courts, as well as in the Supreme Court, will be suspended until May 31 to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The court in March first imposed the restrictions, but originally, they were to end April 10. The court has also announced it will review its orders on May 20 to determine whether they will be extended or canceled.

Economic comeback: Wyoming’s economic recovery from the coronavirus epidemic will be a fairly long process, according to a legislator who has a doctorate in economics. Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said the comeback from the slowdown that has resulted from business closures and self-isolation will also be difficult. Case said much of the recovery progress will depend on the mindset of Wyoming’s residents. “People are going to be used to doing things a different way, and they may not have their previous levels of eating out, for example, or going to the movies,” he said.

Women’s Center case: A staff member at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Corrections. The DOC, in a news release, said the staff member’s access to the Women’s Center was very limited and there does not appear to be any heightened risk to inmates. Four staff members who had direct contact with the infected person are on self-quarantine, but have shown no symptoms of the illness.

Teton numbers: Teton County’s coronavirus infection rate is the highest in the state at 230 per 100,000 people. The county has the second-highest coronavirus case count in the state at 56. Jodie Pond, director of the Teton County Health Department, said the high number of cases can be traced in part to travel into the community by tourists and residents leaving the community to visit other areas She noted other ski towns have also been hard hit by the virus.

Budget problems: Cheyenne officials are bracing for a difficult budgeting process this year because of declines in revenues created by the COVID-19 epidemic. Towns across Wyoming are preparing for a loss of up to 25% in sales tax revenue because of the economic slowdowns caused by business closures and restrictions on social interaction. “When you’re developing a budget that has to be to the city council by May 15 … It’s just really hard, because a lot of difficult decisions need to be made,” said city Treasurer Robin Lockman.

Antler hunters: Officials believe it may be difficult to keep out-of-state visitors from taking part in the opening day of antler collection in northwestern Wyoming on May 1. Because the gathering of antlers shed by elk does not require a permit, there is no way to prevent people from outside the state from traveling to Wyoming. “I don’t see stopping people,” said Chris Dippel, deputy manager for the National Elk Refuge. “Instead of 800 or 1,000 people, we may get 600 or something like that. There may be a few folks who follow that guideline.”

Feeding the essential: A group of Casper businesses has started delivering meals to health care workers, grocery store employees, first responders and other essential workers. Coldwell Banker/The Legacy Group, Occasions by Cory and the Cottage Cafe have launched “Feed the Front Line. Casper” to provide meals to the individuals. Community donations pay for the meals prepared by Occasions by Cory, the Cottage Cafe and several other food and beverage establishments.

Printing more masks: A Campbell County High School teacher is using 3D printers borrowed from the school to manufacture face shields and “ear savers.” Brandon Cone is running five 3D printers in his home to create both products for health care workers in the area. He said he has so far produced about 175 face shields — a transparent screen that prevents health care workers from being exposed to the virus — and about 100 “ear savers,” plastic strips that connect to the elastic on face masks so the elastic doesn’t cut into people’s ears.


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