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First coronavirus case identified in Sweetwater County; more found in Teton, Fremont counties

First coronavirus case identified in Sweetwater County; more found in Teton, Fremont counties

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US struggles to fill requests for protective gear

FILE - In this March 13, 2020, file photo, a nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station, set up by the University of Washington Medical Center, holds a swab used to take a sample from the nose of a person in their car in Seattle. The federal government is rushing protective equipment to states for medical workers who will be on the front lines of the growing coronavirus pandemic. Washington state has received at least two shipments and needs more. At least in two other states, promised deliveries are falling far short of requests and even include expired items. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

A laboratory test on Tuesday identified the first case of coronavirus in Sweetwater County.

That case involves a Green River man in his 40s. He is self-isolating at home, authorities there said in an announcement.

"We would like for this to be our one and only case, but we are aware this likely will not be the situation,” said Kristy Nielson, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County chief nursing officer. “We are taking precautions to minimize the spread; we ask the community to help us with this by following the advice we are providing.”

Meanwhile, the state announced an eighth case in Cheyenne, a third in Teton County and a 12th in Fremont County.

All told, there are have 34 cases identified in Wyoming.

In other news, Natrona County's second novel coronavirus patient, confirmed Monday night, likely contracted the virus after traveling internationally, officials said Tuesday afternoon.

Fremont County has the cases of coronavirus of any county in Wyoming. Most have been tied to a Lander assisted-living center.

There were no immediate details about the new Fremont cases, nor the new Teton case.

Hailey Rodgers-Bloom, spokeswoman for the Casper-Natrona County Healthy Department, told media Tuesday that the new patient in the Casper area has been self-quarantining since he or she returned from their trip and that health officials don't believe there's an immediate danger of spread to the broader community.

The test for the new Natrona County patient was taken by the health department and submitted to the state lab. The sample for the county's previous patient was taken at a Wyoming Medical Center clinic.

The latest Cheyenne patient is in their 40s and has had contact with another confirmed patient, according to a city press release. Cheyenne's eight known cases are the state's second highest, surpassed by Lander's 10 patients.

As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, there have been 30 identified cases in Wyoming, although health experts say the actual number is almost certainly higher due to the dearth of tests. Rodgers-Bloom said that 70 tests from Natrona County have returned negative. Two have been positive, and 30 more are still awaiting results.

Statewide, the state lab has processed 567 tests, with the vast majority returning negative. Commercial labs have tested scores more. New data from the state Department of Health shows roughly 45 percent of the state's confirmed cases are from "contact with a known case." More than 25 percent is from domestic travel, less than 5 percent is from international travel, and 25 percent are from unknown origins.

Roughly an equal amount of patients have pre-existing health conditions or are otherwise healthy. For a fifth of Wyoming's cases, it's unclear if they had previous medical conditions. Most had fever and cough.

Cases have been identified in Campbell, Carbon, Fremont, Laramie, Natrona, Park Sheridan and Teton counties.

In an effort to slow the spread of the disease and avoid overwhelming the medical system, Gov. Mark Gordon has ordered schools closed through early April. He's also required several types of businesses that cater to the pubic to close their doors for two weeks. That includes bars, gyms and museums. Restaurants, meanwhile, can only offer takeout and delivery.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is a respiratory illness. Its symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath. Symptoms appear within two weeks. If you have contact with a person who has COVID-19, you should self-isolate for 14 days.

Natrona County residents who fear they have COVID-19 or another respiratory illness are encouraged to call Wyoming Medical Center's newest clinic, which was established specifically for this issue. The clinic will only test those patients who do not have the flu and who physicians believe may have COVID-19. The clinic, which accepts walk-ins but asks you to call ahead, can be reached at 307-233-0291. It's located at 245 S. Fenway St. in Casper.

The hospital has also launched a telehealth screening hotline. Patients who are experiencing respiratory illness symptoms such as fever, cough, nasal and chest congestion and sore throats can call the hotline, where they can speak with a registered nurse. The hotline number is 307-233-7288 and is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Patients who believe they're sick are asked not to go to the emergency room to avoid overwhelming the facility. They are asked to either call Wyoming Medical Center's clinic or the patients' normal health care providers. Only patients who are having trouble breathing should go to the ER.

The Casper-Natrona County Health Department has established a local hotline that potential patients can also call. People can also call the number for information about COVID-19. That number is 307-577-9892.

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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