Wyoming sees first coronavirus death, case count to 275
April 9, 2020
An older Johnson County man is the first state resident to die as a result of the coronavirus, according to officials.
State officials and officials with the Johnson County Healthcare Center confirmed Monday that the man died late last week after being hospitalized for one day.
Sean McCallister, chief executive officer for the Johnson County Healthcare Center, announced in a news release Monday the death of the man, who McCallister said had serious underlying medical conditions.
State health officials have said since the virus reached Wyoming that those with pre-existing conditions such as lung or heart diseases or diabetes would be more seriously affected by the illness.
“While we’ve learned most people who are infected are able to recover at home without medical care, we also know people who are aged 65 and older and people who have medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and weak immune systems are more likely to experience complications and become severely ill,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, said in a news release announcing the death.
Gov Mark Gordon, in a statement, expressed sympathy for the man’s family.
"I am saddened to learn that we have lost our first Wyoming citizen to COVID-19,” Gordon said in a statement. “This one was close to home and sadly serves as a grim reminder of the importance of following public health orders and guidance so we can reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in our state. Jennie and I extend our thoughts and prayers to this gentleman’s family and friends.”
Wyoming was the last state to see a death from coronavirus and remains the state with the lowest number of COVID-19 cases.
The death was reported as the state Department of Health announced that the number of coronavirus cases reported in Wyoming since the virus reached the state increased to 275 on Monday with the discovery of five new cases in three counties.
The department, in its daily update, said new cases were diagnosed in Fremont, Laramie and Sweetwater counties. Platte and Weston counties remain the only counties in the state without a confirmed coronavirus case.
As of Monday afternoon, Laramie County had 60 cases; Teton County had 56; Fremont County had 41; Natrona had 33; Sheridan had 12; Johnson and Campbell had 11; Sweetwater had nine; Converse had eight; 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 two on Monday to total 140.
The highest number of recoveries was found in Teton County at 35.
In other developments:
Gordon praised: Dr. Athony Fauci, the nation’s most prominent infectious disease expert, praised Gordon for his efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus by closing schools and certain businesses and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said he was pleased with the state’s “commitment they’re putting in to making sure that we don’t have the situations that we’ve experienced unfortunately in other areas, this is very important.”
Local enforcement: Cheyenne’s City Council on Monday rejected a proposal to give Cheyenne police more authority to enforce the state’s health orders on social distancing. Police can now enforce the orders closing some businesses and limiting gatherings to 10 people, but the only punishment available is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. The ordinance rejected would have let police issue tickets carrying $50 fines for those who violated social distancing guidelines.
The council did approve an emergency ordinance allowing liquor deliveries.
Traveling less: A “mobility report” by Google shows that travel by Wyoming residents to retail locations has dropped by 37 percent since Gordon issued the orders closing schools and some businesses and limiting gatherings to 10 people. The study, which used information from Google Maps to track the movement of the app’s users, also showed a 27 percent drop in travel to business offices since the orders took effect.
Cluster of cases: Almost half of Natrona County’s 33 coronavirus cases have been tracked to the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper. At least 16 cases were linked to a mixture of staff and patients at the facility.
Antibody panel: St. John’s Health in Jackson has appointed a panel to review possible antibody tests for coronavirus and recommend one for use at the hospital. The 10-member panel will look at three tests for use in testing first responders and health care workers. The tests used most widely around the country use nasal swabs to detect coronavirus, indicating whether a person is infected. Antibody tests search for the antibodies created when the body fights an infection, allowing users to determine if someone has coronavirus even if they are not showing symptoms.
Relief donation: Black Hills Energy is donating $30,500 to coronavirus relief efforts in Wyoming. The donation is part of a $375,000 gift made to eight states in Black Hills’ service area. In Wyoming, the company donated $10,000 to First Lady Jenny Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative.
Pilgrimage canceled: This year’s Heart Mountain Pilgrimage, scheduled for July, has been canceled because of concerns about coronavirus. Every summer since 2011, hundreds of visitor have made the “pilgrimage” to the site where more than 14,000 Japanese Americans were held during Worland War II. “The pilgrimage is our favorite time of the year and we will miss seeing all of you,” Shirley Ann Higuchi, chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, wrote in a message. “But your safety, and the safety of our members, supporters and families comes first.”