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Recorded coronavirus cases in Wyoming growing at highest rate yet
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Recorded coronavirus cases in Wyoming growing at highest rate yet

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COVID Clinic

Health care workers collect samples for coronavirus testing at an April 24 drive-thru clinic in Arapahoe. Cases are spiking in Wyoming at the highest recorded rate since the pandemic began in March.

After coronavirus cases plateaued in Wyoming throughout the last months of spring, the state has seen a spike in the weeks leading up to the first day of summer.

In fact, recorded cases here are currently growing at a rate that Wyoming hasn’t yet experienced since the virus first was detected March 11 in Sheridan County.

On Wednesday, the state hit its highest 10-day average yet for confirmed cases, with 15 per day. (In other words, on Wednesday and the nine days before it, 150 new cases were confirmed.) Thursday, the state set a new high water mark, having averaged 15.8 cases per day over the previous 10 days, and Friday that number rose to 16.7.

The highest 10-day averages before this week — by far — came in early April, when the state’s 10-day average hovered between 12.9 and 14.4 cases per day over the course of a week. Since mid-April, the state’s 10-day average had only crested above 10 daily cases five times.

While the state has also gained the capacity to test at a higher rate, state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said earlier this week that the recent growth cannot solely be written off as a product of testing.

“That (testing) number of course has increased since the start of the outbreak, which is very important for us to be able to detect cases so we can implement control measures like isolation and quarantine,” she said Tuesday in a news conference with Gov. Mark Gordon. “But the increased number of cases that we’re detecting is a result (of) transmission within our communities and (an) increased number of cases as well. So we can’t use just increased amounts of testing as an explanation for all of the cases that we are detecting.”

The spike in cases comes as Wyoming, like many states, continues to relax restrictions that were put in place to slow the virus’ spread. Restaurants and personal-care businesses have reopened and larger gatherings are now permitted.

Wyoming’s average case counts this month have been significantly higher than any other month since the coronavirus was first detected here. In June, the state has averaged 12.3 confirmed cases per day. The state had averaged 3.9, 9.8 and 9 confirmed cases per day in March, April and May, respectively.

That spike prompted Gordon at Tuesday’s press conference to stress the importance of social distancing and wearing face masks.

“The news this week is, ‘Let’s not be foolish,’” he said. “Let’s not lose the ground we’ve gained. It’s great that we have spring. It’s great that we can feel good and be out and enjoy watersports, enjoy fishing, enjoy rodeo, enjoy just wonderful Wyoming. But it is also a time when we don’t want to risk that.

“And so, yeah, we hope that things like face masks will go (away) in time, but for the time being, they’re critical. They’re critical to protect our most vulnerable populations. And having known a couple of people that have gotten coronavirus, and it wasn’t easy for them, it’s important that we respect each other.”

(Note: While April has the highest number of total cases per day in this infographic, that number is likely skewed by the state Health Department announcing 73 probable cases on the day that category debuted. Since then, no single-day total has reached even half that amount.)

The most severe uptick has come in Uinta County, where officials have tied the spike to Memorial Day activities. Since June 8, two weeks after Memorial Day, the state has averaged 16.1 confirmed cases per day. (The incubation period for the virus is believed to be two weeks.)

Over the past week, Uinta County’s numbers alone have grown at a higher rate than the entire state’s did in mid-April. (The county has confirmed 71 cases in the past 10 days; during one 10-day stretch in April, the state added just 55.) According to New York Times data, Uinta County currently ranks 55th among all U.S. counties in recent cases per resident.

As of Friday afternoon, Uinta County had confirmed 103 cases. At the beginning of the month, it had nine.

On Thursday, the state Health Department announced 30 new coronavirus cases — 22 confirmed and eight probable. (The department defines a probable case as a situation in which an untested person has been identified as a close contact with a laboratory-confirmed case and has also developed COVID-19 symptoms within two weeks.) Those 30 cases are the most announced in a single day with the exception of April 8, when the state first began providing probable numbers, resulting in a jump from zero to 73 in that category. Friday, 29 new cases were announced, 21 of which were confirmed — the first time 20 or more cases had been confirmed in two consecutive days here.

When including probable cases, Wyoming has averaged more than 20 new coronavirus patients per day over the past 10 days — the first time that has happened.

Wyoming isn’t the only state whose cases have been on the rise. The Times lists Wyoming as one of 20 states that have seen “growth in newly reported cases over the last 14 days.”

The state has not yet seen a commensurate spike in recoveries announced. Wyoming has averaged 9.3 confirmed recoveries per day over the last 10 days, which is more than three daily recoveries below the state’s highest average (12.7 per day for the 10 days ending June 2). However, seeing as the Wyoming Department of Health considers a patient as fully recovered “when there is resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms” and seven days have passed since the symptoms appeared, it makes sense that a corresponding spike in recoveries would take time.

Overall, just under three-fourths of Wyoming coronavirus patients have fully recovered, and 2.2% of confirmed patients have died of COVID-19 — 90% of whom had underlying conditions. Two coronavirus-related deaths were announced Friday, the first since June 9. That brought the state’s total to 20 deaths since the pandemic began.

Follow managing editor Brandon Foster on Twitter @BFoster91

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Managing Editor

Brandon Foster is the Star-Tribune's managing editor. He joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 as the University of Wyoming sports reporter after graduating from the University of Missouri and covering Mizzou athletics for two years.

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