Fifteen positive cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Wyoming, and the situation continues to develop quickly. The Star-Tribune will update this page throughout Tuesday with the latest news regarding coronavirus in Wyoming.
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Four more cases confirmed
Four more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed by Wyoming health officials: a Park County woman, a Laramie County woman, and a Sheridan County man and woman.
There are now 15 confirmed cases in the state.
The two new Sheridan County cases are close contacts to two previous patients in the county.
Health officials had no additional details about the Laramie and Park county patients.
Tribes respond to outbreak
The Eastern Shoshone Tribe has joined the Northern Arapaho Tribe in declaring a state of emergency.
While the Northern Arapaho have closed their casino — considered the county's largest employer — the Eastern Shoshone have yet to close their own.
Day cares surprised by low attendance
Child care providers had largely expected numbers to soar in light of school closures. So far, though, most providers say the influx of calls hasn't come and their clienteles have actually dropped significantly.
Most providers say parents are watching their kids themselves or partnering with friends to share child care responsibilities.
Many said they suspect their numbers are low because of parents who want to keep their children from being around other kids in order to limit their households' exposure to the virus.
Local courts not making changes
Local courts were largely uninterrupted by the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, with proceedings continuing in Natrona County Circuit Court and Natrona County District Court.
Federal courts, however, are making more significant changes. Judge Scott Skavdahl, the chief judge for federal courts in Wyoming, told lawyers that clerks’ offices in federal courthouses here would have limited public availability and that staffers in both district and bankruptcy courts are required to work by phone where possible. Judges in the federal system are also working by video conference or by conference call. Federal inmates are already largely prohibited from travel.
At least one prisoner in Wyoming was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms on Friday. That prisoner, who was held in the Casper Re-Entry Center, remained hospitalized on Monday, per the GEO Group, the private prison company that operates the facility. Monica Hook, the spokeswoman, declined to say if the prisoner had been tested for COVID-19, citing federal privacy law that prohibits in most circumstances the release of private health information when coupled with identifying information.
Hospital broken into
Memorial Hospital of Converse County, which earlier Monday reported its possible COVID-19 patient tested negative, says two men broke into the Douglas hospital last week to steal protective gear.
Karl Hertz, the hospital's chief operating officer, said the men broke into the hospital's office building and stole masks. They then attempted to break into the hospital itself in an attempt to steal "masks, gloves, and toilet paper." Surveillance footage was turned over to Douglas Police, and no arrests were made as of Tuesday morning.
"MHCC changed is procedures are removed all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from public access," Hertz said in an email.
11th case confirmed
An 11th case of coronavirus has been confirmed of Wyoming, this time in a new part of the state.
"An older male resident of Laramie County" is the newest patient, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. He is currently in Cheyenne and not hospitalized.
Lander declares state of emergency
The city of Lander has declared a state of emergency, as details emerge about the Fremont County outbreak. Fremont County health officer Dr. Brian Gee said the seven new cases announced late Monday "are all either staff members or residents of the Showboat Retirement Center."
Two of the eight Lander patients are hospitalized. Officials are testing more Fremont County residents, and the state has placed a quarantine on all residents and staff at the facility.
The state of emergency could help the city access funds from state and federal sources.
SMP: Tap water still safe to drink
Shoshone Municipal Pipeline sent out a notice that its tap water remains safe to drink. SMP delivers water to Cody, Powell, Byron, Lovell, Deaver, Frannie and the 10 rural areas served by Northwest Rural Water District.
Animal shelter making changes
Metro Animal Shelter in Casper will limit the number of people that can be inside the shelter at once, Casper Police Department spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd said. Its hours will also be shortened.
Most teachers to get paid
The state's two biggest school districts say they will pay most teachers during their respective coronavirus shutdowns.
Natrona County School District spokeswoman Tanya Southerland said the "vast majority" of the district's 2,000-plus employees will be paid. All "benefited" employees will be paid as normal, though a "handful" of workers' pay is up in the air still.
The district will not extend its semester because of the weeks off. District staffers are expected to report for work Wednesday, though Southerland said the majority of that work will be done remotely.
It remains unclear if the district will provide any services to its homeless and special education students. It's also unclear if the district will pursue any virtual education.
In Cheyenne, Laramie County School District No. 1 Superintendent Boyd Brown said staffers would all be paid during the closure, though they may also have to work at the end of the semester if the district has to extend its academic year. His hope is that the semester won't be extended, however.
Some academic work, remedial work and other materials have been sent to students, Boyd said, but no new material that will be graded.
More Lander concerns
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's regional office in Lander is temporarily closing after workers there exhibited signs consistent with COVID-19. Eight of the state's 10 known coronavirus cases are tied to a Lander assisted-living center.
Employees there are self-quarantining based on medical advice and were asked to close the office "out of an abundance of caution to limit potential exposure to the public."
Ski area closed
Hogadon Basin Ski Area is closed for the rest of the season, Casper Police Department spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The move follows closures at other ski resorts around the state and country.
"In making this decision, efforts were made to keep the facility open in a limited use capacity, however the sanitation of the chair lift was the critical piece that we could not solve and a risk we were unable to take," the city of Casper said in a Facebook post. "Our team is currently working on a plan to credit season pass holders appropriately for the lost time. Those details will be released as soon as they are finalized. Closing facilities is not an easy decision for us and it’s a decision we take extremely seriously.
"We encourage all of our outdoor enthusiasts to use the grounds to hike and enjoy the fresh air. However, we do ask that users avoid the areas where snow conditions could be ripe for an avalanche. There will be no staff on site."
Movie theaters close
WyoMovies theaters have closed their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company plans to reach out to people who've purchased advance tickets to offer refunds. Refunds for tickets purchased though Atom Tickets will be processed by Atom, and that contact information can be found ticket purchase confirmation emails.
Free tickets and concession cash on Studio Rewards cards won't expire.
The chain had previously halved its theaters' capacities to allow for social distancing.
Grocery store offering senior citizen hours
Smith's Food & Drug Stores, which announced yesterday it was hiring due to the outbreak, will allow senior citizens to shop during the first hour of Monday, Wednesday and Friday store hours: 7 to 8 a.m.
The elderly are considered the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Staff will be on hand for those who need special accommodations. Pharmacy hours will also open early for seniors. The store is waiving the pick-up fee for customers 60 and older through April 18.
Other shoppers can access the store from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Casper has one Smith's location: 2405 CY Ave.
Air Force base declares emergency
F.E. Warren Air Force Base has declared a public health emergency, though it is reporting no confirmed cases on the base at this time. The emergency allows the base to make full use of available resources, similar to the state's state of emergency declaration.
The declaration does allow the base to quarantine or isolate select individuals, according to a Public Affairs Office announcement, though the news release did not say whether it was currently doing so.
Additionally, the base is taking the following steps:
- Better enforcing precautionary measures and protocols;
- Improving synchronization with state, local, tribal and territorial public health and safety officials;
- Devoting more time and resources to fighting the spread of the virus;
- Closing base facilities;
- Limiting non-mission essential activities
Previously announced prevention efforts remain intact.
Northern Wyoming Community College District president shares letter
Walter Tribley, president of the Northern Wyoming Community College District, sent a letter out to students affected by the COVID-19 closure, saying that the district still hopes to resume operations April 6 but that the spread of the disease could "require us to modify our timeline."
"This difficult decision was made to protect your health and that of our employees, as well as the communities in which we serve. We all must do our part to help what epidemiologists refer to as 'flattening the curve,'" Tribley wrote. "... We commit to doing everything within our power to help you successfully complete the classes in which you are currently enrolled."
Douglas patient tests negative
The Memorial Hospital of Converse County who showed coronavirus-like symptoms has tested negative for COVID-19, the Douglas hospital announced. The patient was admitted to the hospital's isolation room over the weekend, and results came back Monday evening.
No other patients at the hospital have met the criteria for COVID-19 testing.
Nelly concert postponed
The Casper Events Center has postponed the upcoming Nelly concert, scheduled for April 29, to Oct 30. Current tickets for the concert — featuring Chingy, Twista, Do or Die, and Sloan Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony — will be honored in October with no action needed.
Those with other ticket questions should reach out to point of purchase.
Pool tournament canceled
The Casper Events Center announced that the upcoming 2020 VNEA Wyoming State 8-Ball Pool Tournament is canceled. It was scheduled to be held March 25-29 at the venue.
The announcement cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation against large gatherings in light of COVID-19.
Oil prices continue to rock Wyoming
Wyoming oil and gas producers continue to deal with the low prices and lack of demand brought on, in part, by the coronavirus.
Some experts predict crude will rebound later this year, but things could be rocky for Wyoming companies in the interim.
Seven new cases
The Wyoming Department of Health announced late Monday that there are seven confirmed new cases of the coronavirus in Wyoming — all in Fremont County. They are all tied to the state's second case, an elderly man at a Lander assisted living facility.
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