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COVID-19 identified in 12 Wyoming long-term care facilities since pandemic's start
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COVID-19 identified in 12 Wyoming long-term care facilities since pandemic's start

Elkhorn Rehab Center

The entrance sign to Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital sits on the corner of Second Street and Betty Way in September in Casper. The long-term facility is one of 12 in Wyoming where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred since the pandemic began.

COVID-19 cases have been identified in a dozen Wyoming long-term care facilities since the pandemic began, the state Health Department reported Tuesday. Of those, seven are considered active situations.

Department spokesperson Kim Deti via email Tuesday listed 12 facilities where cases were confirmed since the coronavirus emerged in Wyoming. Deti 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 news comes as State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist announced Monday that indoor visitation will now be allowed at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“It is my hope that some comfort can be available for the residents, staff and families who have been so unfairly affected by the need to protect them from COVID-19,” Harrist said in a press briefing Monday.

For facilities to begin indoor visitation, there must not have been new COVID-19 cases within the last 14 days, according to guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The state is operating off of those recommendations, according to instructions for those facilities signed by Harrist Thursday.

Large outbreaks at Goshen and Natrona county facilities have infected 24 and 22 people, respectively.

At Goshen Healthcare Community, a Torrington nursing home, 15 residents and nine staff members have contracted the virus. It’s unclear where the outbreak originated. A call to Goshen County Public Health was not returned Tuesday before press deadlines.

In Natrona County, 22 people at the Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Center — nine patients and 13 staff members — have contracted the virus.

Not all cases reported are necessarily still active, Deti said.

Health officials shared news of the Natrona County outbreak in early September, initially reporting 14 cases at the facility. Prior to the outbreak at Elkhorn, the facility had been offered mass testing but refused, state and local health officials told the Star-Tribune at the time.

Cases have also been reported at Garden Square Assisted Living of Casper, with two residents and three staff members testing positive.

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St. John’s Living Center in Teton County has also reported cases, requiring “a major operational and clinical response, including extensive regular testing and moving residents out of their familiar living spaces to create an isolation wing where we can monitor residents who may have been exposed,” St. Johns Health CEO Paul Beaupre wrote Friday in a statement.

Nursing homes in Douglas, Laramie and Riverton have also reported active COVID-19 cases, Deti said via email.

No deaths have been reported at any of the facilities with active cases.

Earlier in the pandemic, cases at two facilities did lead to resident deaths.

One LifeCare of Casper resident contracted the virus in May, later dying from the illness. They were the first COVID-19 patient to die in Natrona County. The positive case led LifeCare to test and quarantine 265 people. No additional cases have been reported at the facility.

The most deadly outbreak in the state thus far occurred in May, at Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. That outbreak infected 16 residents and 12 staff members. Six residents of that facility later died from COVID-19, five of whom were Wyomingites.

Harrist said Monday the string of new cases at long-term care facilities could have devastating consequences.

“This has been something we’ve been working hard to prevent all along,” Harrist said. “We know that the risk of outbreaks in facilities is related to the extent of spread within our communities.”

Later in the press conference, when sharing details of new visitation protocols, Harrist offered a final plea for residents.

“Visitation comes with risk,” she said, “and we all need to do our part to allow these visits to happen safely by taking steps to reduce spread in our communities.”

Photos: A visit to the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory

Follow health and education 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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