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Governor calls in Wyoming National Guard to aid hospitals amid COVID-19 surge
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Governor calls in Wyoming National Guard to aid hospitals amid COVID-19 surge

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Registered nurse Lindsey LeVeck puts on her personal protective equipment in the hallway of the ICU at Wyoming Medical Center on May 8, 2020 in Casper. COVID is again surging in Wyoming.

The Wyoming National Guard is deploying once again to assist the state’s hospitals in combating a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Tuesday.

Gordon summoned roughly 95 soldiers and airmen to state active-duty orders. They will be assigned to 24 different hospital locations within 17 Wyoming cities, according to a press release from Gordon’s office.

This is the third time the national guard has been called up to alleviate the pandemic’s burden on the state’s medical facilities. When cases and hospitalizations were nearing their peak last fall, Gordon in October deployed guardsmen across the state to assist with contact tracing, and in November assigned 10 guardsmen to assist Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

US COVID-19 Death Toll, Eclipses 1918 Spanish Flu Estimates. Over a century ago, the world was devastated by a pandemic widely considered , "the deadliest in human history.". ABC News reports that an estimated 675,000 of those deaths occurred in the United States. According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, at least 675,446 Americans have been confirmed to have died since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Experts suggest there are key differences between both pandemics that must be taken into account. These are two different viruses, two different times in history, at two different times of medical history, with what you have available to combat or treat it, Howard Markel, Professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, ABC News. The U.S. currently has a coronavirus case fatality rate of 1.6%, compared to the 2.5% fatality rate for influenza in 1918. The U.S. currently has a coronavirus case fatality rate of 1.6%, compared to the 2.5% fatality rate for influenza in 1918. The difference is that 1 in 500 Americans have died now, and about 1 in 152 died in 1918, although our number keeps going up, Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University, ABC News. The difference is that 1 in 500 Americans have died now, and about 1 in 152 died in 1918, although our number keeps going up, Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University, ABC News. We have effective vaccines now, and so what strikes me in the comparison, if you think about this milestone, this tragedy of deaths, is that same number but we have a really effective treatment, the thing that they most wanted in 1918 and '19, we've got. And for a lot of different reasons, we botched the response, Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University, ABC News. We have effective vaccines now, and so what strikes me in the comparison, if you think about this milestone, this tragedy of deaths, is that same number but we have a really effective treatment, the thing that they most wanted in 1918 and '19, we've got. And for a lot of different reasons, we botched the response, Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University, ABC News. A disproportionate number of those who succumbed to the flu in 1918 were in the 18- to 45-year-old age group. The coronavirus pandemic has most affected those over the age of 65, who make up 78.7% of virus-related deaths

This time, the guard will assist with environmental cleanup, food and nutrition services, managing PPE supplies, COVID-19 screening and COVID-19 testing at various hospitals.

In addition to the guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated nearly $43 million to the Wyoming Department of Health as cases surge.

Of that money, $41 million will go toward “community-based testing services” at 61 sites statewide. The remaining $1.8 million is earmarked for the department to buy advertisements on billboards, TV, radio and other mediums for a COVID-19 informational campaign, according to a release from the federal agency.

Twelve Wyoming hospitals reported critical staffing shortages Tuesday, and 13 anticipate that shortage within the week, according to information reported to the federal government.

“I am grateful to the members of our Wyoming National Guard for once again answering the call to provide assistance in our hospitals during this surge,” Gordon said in a statement. “Our Guard members truly are Wyoming’s sword and shield, and their commitment to our state is something for which every Wyoming citizen can be thankful.”

The orders for guardsmen will be 14-30 day rotations, with the potential to extend beyond that, up until Dec. 31.

COVID-19 is surging in Wyoming, with hospitalizations and active cases near the state’s winter peak.

As of Tuesday, 190 people were hospitalized statewide, and 2,758 infections were considered active.

“The Delta variant has overwhelmed the medical institutions of states across this country. Our state is no different with most hospitals at or near capacity,” Col. David Pritchett, director of the joint staff for the Wyoming National Guard, said in the release. “The Soldiers and Airmen of the Wyoming National Guard are proud to jump back in to provide much needed assistance to our communities as we continue to battle the effects of COVID-19.”

While this surge has taxed Wyoming hospitals, it hasn’t yet reached the heights of last fall’s surge. In late November, 247 people were being treated for the virus in Wyoming hospitals and active cases neared 12,000 — roughly 2% of the state.

This time, Wyoming has a new weapon against the virus: vaccines. But the state possesses the worst vaccination rate in the nation, with just over 37% of residents fully inoculated against the virus.

Natrona County’s health officer Dr. Mark Dowell on Friday made an impassioned plea to unvaccinated residents, nearly begging them to get their shots.

“I’ve had physicians crying, nurses crying, nurses in my office having a hard time. People are trying not to get cynical,” he said, adding that he too is struggling. “I’ve watched way north of 20 people die in the last few weeks and none of them needed to die.”

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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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