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Health officials conduct widespread 'research' coronavirus testing at state hospital
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Health officials conduct widespread 'research' coronavirus testing at state hospital

Wyoming State Hospital

The Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston is shown in 2017. Two women who had been transferred out of WBI and were admitted to the state hospital have tested positive for coronavirus.

Willing patients and staff at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston are being tested en masse for the novel coronavirus, part of a joint effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The psychiatric hospital was visited by the CDC team that came to Wyoming earlier this month. The team recommended a "point prevalence survey," meaning an effort to test the staff and patients to get an idea of the spread of the disease in an area that has both a communal population and a traveling group of employees. The testing will be diagnostic; it will seek to identify who currently has the disease, rather then attempting to look at who may have had it in the past. A Health Department spokeswoman called the effort "research."

"Some staff and patients will be tested within a 24-hour period at the Wyoming State Hospital on Friday, May 1," the Uinta County Public Health Department said in a press release Thursday. "The CDC team will provide supplies and conduct the testing. Samples will be sent to the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, also part of the Wyoming Department of Health, for results."

A message left at the county's health department was not immediately returned Friday. As of Friday morning, there had been six confirmed cases of coronavirus in Uinta County, with two more probable cases. Statewide, there have been 415 cases. 

Officials both in Wyoming and across the nation have stressed the need for widespread testing to truly get a handle on the pandemic and to build the data necessary to begin loosening social distancing restrictions. That's proven difficult because of shortages of supplies; as of Friday, about 9,400 Wyomingites had been tested, which amounts to about 1.6 percent of the state's population. Of those who have been tested, about 4.4 percent have tested positive.

The testing at the state hospital "is not a reaction to a concern," state Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti said. Two patients, newly transferred to the hospital earlier this month, tested positive for COVID-19, but both were isolated before they entered the broader facility. The micro goal is to get an understanding of the coronavirus' spread in Evanston and Uinta County. 

"The main point that we see, this is an opportunity to gain a little bit of insight into what’s going on in a community in a different point of time," Deti said. 

She said the state hospital was chosen because it's a state-run facility, making it easier than, say, parts of Teton or Fremont counties, where the disease is more widespread. 

"There are no expectations of exactly what we’ll find," she said. "It’s again not in reaction to some big worry."

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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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