Seventh coronavirus death reported
April 23, 2020
An older Teton County man has died as a result of the coronavirus, bringing to seven the number of Wyoming residents whose deaths have been linked to the illness.
The Wyoming Department of Health announced the death Wednesday night, a few hours after announcing the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state had grown to 326.
The department said the Teton County man had been hospitalized in another state after being diagnosed with coronavirus. It added he suffered from existing health conditions that put him at a higher risk for complications from coronavirus.
The death followed by one day the announcement that four people, all members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, had died as a result of coronavirus on Monday.
Tribal officials said the illness is much more widespread on the Wind River Indian Reservation than earlier believed.
Lee Spoonhunter, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, said the first cases were limited to two families, but that has changed.
“This is not contained any more,” he told the Casper Star-Tribune. “Now, you’re seeing testing where there are positive cases that are no longer linked or tied to an earlier case.”
At least 24 of Fremont County’s 51 coronavirus cases (as of Wednesday, April 22) have been detected among tribal members. Dr. Brian Gee, Fremont County’s public health officer, said the high number might be the result of extensive testing by the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Wind River Family and Community Healthcare, as well as the spread of the illness.
“The more testing that you do, the more positives you’re likely going to find,” he said. “I think that there is spread, but they’re trying very hard to kind of get that spread to slow down and I think they’ve done a pretty good job of it.”
Statewide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by four on Wednesday to total 326.
The Health Department, in its daily coronavirus update, said new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Converse, Laramie and Teton counties on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Laramie County had 78 cases; Teton County had 63; Fremont County had 51; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 14; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson County had 11; Sweetwater and Converse had 10; Albany, Lincoln and Uinta had six; Washakie had five; Carbon and Crook had four, and Goshen had three. Big Horn, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette all had one case.
The number of probable cases, people who have not been confirmed with coronavirus but who have exhibited symptoms and have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, was set at 121.
Meanwhile, the total of confirmed and “probable” recoveries increased by 21 on Wednesday to total 275 — 200 confirmed by laboratories and 75 “probable” recoveries.
In other developments:
Hospital aid: Wyoming has received more than $2 million from the federal government to help small hospitals battle coronavirus. The state is expected to receive more money once $10 billion in assistance to rural hospitals across the country approved by Congress begins to be distributed. Eric Boley, head of the Wyoming Hospital Association, said while the assistance will help Wyoming’s rural hospitals, it will not solve all their problems, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus. “It’ll help, but realistically, it’s still not nearly enough,” he said.
Yellowstone opening: Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said park officials still do not know when the park might open for the season. “When restrictions start lifting, we can start asking when communities are ready to have an influx of transient visitors,” he said. “One thing we don’t want to do is get overwhelmed and pull it back.” Sholly said the park will probably open its services gradually when it does reopen. The park had originally been scheduled to open its east entrance near Cody on May 1.
Hiring freeze: The University of Wyoming has instituted a hiring freeze in the face of Gov. Mark Gordon’s call to department heads across the state to prepare for spending cuts. Acting university President Neil Theobald announced Wednesday the university has suspended searches for three deans. In addition, no hiring of faculty or staff at the university can be done without Theobald’s written approval.
Open up: Three Campbell County residents have asked the county’s commissioners to reopen the county’s businesses closed by statewide health orders and to allow people to move about freely. The three, in statements to commissioners, said they believe the social distancing and advising people to stay home may be doing more harm than good and is a violation of constitutional rights. “Taking freedoms away in the name of ‘public health’ is tyrannical, draconian and communist in nature,” wrote Vanda Cathey, a registered nurse and occupational case manager at Campbell County Health.
Machines, no material: Powell and Cody hospitals have received machines that provide the results of COVID-19 test in about 15 minutes. However, the hospitals have only received enough test kits to train machine users. “Right now there’s just enough tests for people to be proficient on using the machine,” said Michelle Petrich, infection prevention and employee health nurse for Powell Valley Healthcare.
Pass or incomplete: Lovell school officials have adopted a “pass/incomplete” grading system to replace traditional letter grades. Trustees for the Big Horn County School District No. 1 joined officials in other counties around the state giving students the option to keep a letter grade if they feel it will help their grade point average or switch to the “pass/incomplete” system. Students receiving an “incomplete” could address the grade this summer or next school year.
Hospital cuts: Weston County Health Services is examining the possibility of cutting some of its hospital staff. Hospital CEO Maureen Cadwell said because of declines in business caused by the coronavirus, hospital officials do not believe there will be enough money to continue at current funding levels. “We can’t continue to operate at the staff level we have now,” she said. “We have to look at what we can do to reduce expenses immediately.”
Memories: The Wyoming State Archives and State Museum, the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center and the Wyoming State Historical Society are all encouraging Wyoming residents to keep records of how they have dealt with COVID-19. The groups are asking for copies of journals or blogs kept by residents during the pandemic, photos of empty streets or teddy bears in windows or even masks or signs made by people. The organizations will use the materials for various displays and projects.
Graduation banners: Worland officials have approved a plan to hang banners carrying the photos of graduating Worland High School seniors on light poles in the city’s downtown area. The town’s council also approved a senior class parade on May 17 if an actual graduation ceremony cannot be held because of coronavirus restrictions.
Virtual commencement: Northwest College will host a “virtual commencement” ceremony in the place of its traditional spring commencement ceremony. The college’s commencement had been scheduled for May 9, but was canceled because of concerns about large gatherings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a virtual commencement ceremony will be broadcast live on May 15. Graduating seniors will be able to join through an online video conferencing program and family and friends will be able to watch the ceremony on Northwest’s website.