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15 Wyoming long-term care facilities now have ongoing situations involving COVID-19
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15 Wyoming long-term care facilities now have ongoing situations involving COVID-19

COVID-19 Testing

Coronavirus specimen collection kits arrive at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory in Cheyenne for sorting by the COVID-19 Surge Team on Sept. 4. The lab covers the cost of shipping and receives daily shipments from health care centers. The samples arrive in one day and roughly 80% of the samples are tested the same day they arrive at the facility.

Health officials are aware of 15 ongoing situations involving COVID-19 at Wyoming long-term care facilities as of Thursday. A week ago, only seven such facilities were in that position.

In total, 19 assisted-living facilities or nursing homes have reported positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic emerged here in March, according to figures kept by the state.

Wyoming Department of Health spokesperson Kim Deti listed the 19 facilities via email Thursday. Seven of the 15 facilities with “ongoing situations” have reported cases for the first time within the last week, two facilities were previously considered resolved and four facilities were on the list last week, but have reported new cases to the state since Oct. 6.

Two of those facilities have reported a COVID-19 death since Oct. 6.

Since that data, 14 facilities have reported new cases, according to the health department. They are: Sundance Assisted Living, LifeCare of Cheyenne, Willow Creek Assisted Living, Weston County Manor, New Horizons Care Center, Casper Mountain Rehabilitation and Care Center, St. Johns Living Center, Douglas Care Center, Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center, Laramie Care Center, Goshen Healthcare Community, Granite Rehabilitation and Wellness, Garden Square Assisted Living and Shepherd of the Valley Rehabilitation and Wellness.

New Horizons and Legacy Living Center had previously been marked resolved by the state.

The 15 facilities may not all have active COVID-19 cases, Deti wrote in the email. She said those facilities where outbreaks are still considered active may not mean cases are still widespread at the facility, but that rounds of follow-up testing are still ongoing.

The new surge of cases in long-term care facilities matches a surge of cases statewide.

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In early September, Wyoming cases began spiking at a rate that dwarfed the previous spikes that had peaked in late July and late August. While those two spikes never resulted in an average of even 50 confirmed cases per day, the state averaged more than 100 new confirmed cases per day over the latter part of the month.

The surge has continued into October. Wyoming Medical Center — the state’s largest hospital — on Wednesday nearly reached capacity and declared a “Code Orange” status to mobilize resources to meet the spike, which health officials say they don’t anticipate wavering for at least the next month.

Thirteen Wyoming coronavirus patients died in September, more than in any previous month. Seven have died so far in October.

State health officials had hoped to eliminate almost all coronavirus restrictions during the summer, but case increases prevented them from following through on that plan. While less restrictive than the initial health orders put in place in March, most of the amended health orders have been continually renewed, with a few exceptions. Most notably, the state loosened capacity restrictions on restaurants, even during the massive September spike, because there had not been evidence of virus outbreaks tied to indoor dining.

While Gov. Mark Gordon has said he is not considering a statewide face mask requirement, he has urged the state’s residents to wear them. He has repeatedly stressed the need for personal responsibility to protect both Wyoming’s wellness and its economy.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever and shortness of breath. Symptoms appear within two weeks. Health officials recommend self-isolating for two weeks if you have contact with a person who has the illness.

Photos: A visit to the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory

Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites

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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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