Two 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 Friday with the latest news regarding coronavirus in Wyoming.
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Second confirmed case
The state Health Department announced a second confirmed case of COVID-19: an older man in Fremont County. Unlike in the first case, the man is hospitalized.
"WDH is following up to learn more about the person’s exposure risk and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patient," the department said in a Friday evening announcement. "Known contacts will be monitored for symptoms and tested if needed."
The second case was identified via lab testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory.
CWC extends spring break
Central Wyoming College became the latest college in the state to extend its spring break, which will now include the next two weeks.
“Our primary goal is care for the safety of CWC and the community by minimizing the chance of exposure and transmission of the disease,” president Brad Tyndall said in the announcement. “We will continue to implement our mission of excellence in education and prove necessary and important educational and cultural opportunities to our students and our local community.”
The school did not indicate that it plans to move all classes online, as some community colleges here have, though it said that some "some classes may be moved to remote instruction."
Officials investigating possible exposure
At least one student in Big Horn County may have been exposed to the coronavirus at an extracurricular event in Wyoming, though experts say it's most likely that the unidentified illness is not coronavirus.
"We are investigating an illness or possible cluster of illnesses that have not tested positive for the flu," said Dr. David Fairbanks, the health officer in Big Horn County. "And so we’re being cautious and testing to make sure it’s not COVID. At this point, we don’t have strong suspicions (that it is)."
Fairbanks said tests administered to the student or students have yet to be processed. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said she did not have an update on timeline for the Big Horn County tests.
David Street Station event still on
The Afternoon on the Green event this weekend is still expected to go as planned. The day begins with the Run for the Green 5k/10k and will feature performances from the Casper Professional Firefighters Pipes & Drums and Richens/Timm Irish Dance.
"We are working closely with the Natrona County Health Department to make sure our event is following its recommended guidelines and ask patrons to participate at their own discretion," marketing manager Julie Schmitt said in an email.
School district bans travel, large gatherings
The Natrona County School District is continuing to evaluate the coronavirus situation.
It said in an a Friday afternoon announcement it was implementing these measures:
- Canceling gatherings or events of 250 people or more, at Gov. Mark Gordon's request;
- Suspending all student and staff travel through April 5;
- Cancelling all usage of NCSD facilities by external agencies through April 12;
- Following designated cleaning and disinfecting procedures for all schools, buildings and buses.
Otherwise, all daily operations continue per usual, including athletics and activities practices.
Special Olympics suspending activities
Special Olympics Wyoming is suspending all activities through the end of May.
"While canceling events is disappointing for our athletes who have trained for months to compete-as well as the volunteers, family, friends, our staff and board who look forward to cheering for them," Priscilla Dowse, president & CEO of Special Olympics Wyoming, said in a statement, "we know that our love of sport doesn’t compare to the importance of protecting the health of our athletes, which will remain our priority.”
ASUW allocating $75K in UW financial support
The Associated Students Student Government at the University of Wyoming announced it is allocating $75,000 for UW students who made need financial support because of the coronavirus. There will be a $300 cap per student.
Students in need should reach out to ASUW accountant Shelly Schaef at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth basketball tournament canceled
The Casper Recreation Foundation and the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau have canceled the 30th Annual Casper Youth Basketball Tournament, the city announced. It was scheduled for March 20-22.
The staff is working to get refunds to those who have registered within two weeks.
UW spring sports canceled
All spring sports at the University of Wyoming are now canceled, rather than simply suspended. That includes spring championships.
The Mountain West Conference has also put a moratorium on all in-person recruiting activities, both on-campus and off.
UW spokesman Tim Harkins said the fate of spring football has yet to be determined.
The Big 12, of which the Wyoming wrestling team is an affiliate member, has canceled all spring competitions until March 29.
No high school extracurriculars until March 28
The Wyoming High School Activities Association has canceled all extracurricular activities from March 16-28.
The timeline could be extended and spring sport practices can continue at the discretion of individual schools.
"We understand the tremendous disappointment this decision is for our student athletes, especially our seniors," the association's announcement read, "but please realize that we must be a responsible state organization and that our highest priority is ensuring the safety of our students, schools and communities."
Diocese of Cheyenne responds
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne released a directive "granting a dispensation from the obligation to attend Holy Mass." Effective through April 8, the dispensation applies to "Catholics of any age who are ill; those who have an underlying health condition, such as chronic lung disease, COPD, asthma, etc.; and any person over 60 years old."
In its announcement, the diocese recommended the following to all parishes:
- "Mandatory handwashing for all ministers and thorough washing of all liturgical vessels.
- Permission to suspend Holy Communion from the Chalice accompanied by encouragement to receive Holy Communion in the hand and not on the tongue.
- Permission to suspend physical contact during the Sign of Peace.
- Permission to empty Holy Water fonts."
“In addition to the effect on physical health,” Bishop Steven Biegler said in a statement, “I am concerned about the social and economic impacts of this outbreak. Isolation and loneliness are already experienced by so many people. We hold in prayer all people affected by COVID-19 or any serious illness, the elderly and homebound, as well as all medical personnel and caregivers for the sick.”
Gordon issues emergency declaration
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has issued an emergency declaration, allowing him to more quickly make use of the state National Guard if needed.
"(It) also makes state businesses eligible to apply for federal funding from the Small Business Association," the release said.
The announcement follows President Donald Trump's announcement of a nationwide emergency.
“Although we have only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Wyoming, I have taken this action to ensure we are prepared in the event additional steps need to be taken,” Gordon said in the release. “We continue to be most concerned about our state’s elderly and vulnerable populations and want to ensure we are taking all necessary steps to address what we may face going forward.”
Amateur Athletic Union volleyball is canceled for at least the next three weekends. The Riverton volleyball tournament this weekend is included in those cancellations. Refunds will be given in the coming weekends.
Bidet of reckoning
What do you do when just about every roll of toilet paper in town has been sold? Maybe the Europeans have the right idea.
A Home Depot employee who declined to give his name said the Casper store had received two bidet-related requests in the last day. Prior to that, he said, it had been about six months since anyone asked about the plumbing device, a common bathroom fixture in many other countries.
Home Depot doesn't stock bidets but can place orders for them.
The two bidet seekers did not specifically cite the coronavirus or the lack of toilet paper around town as the reasons for their interest. Rather, the employee said, he believed it was "more of a curiosity" brought on by the shortage.
Menards in Casper said it had not had any recent requests and does not stock bidets.
An employee at Baileys Ace Hardware said that she had "heard comments" in recent days about bidets, but that they haven't translated to sales. Ace doesn't sell bidets in store either, she said, though they do sell some devices that can be attached to a normal toilet to create one.
There hasn't been an uptick in those sales either, though.
"(It's) More of a joke," she said. "It's crazy times."
City: Don't flush TP alternatives
With toilet paper flying off the shelves across Casper, the city emphasized that those using alternatives to toilet paper — such as hygiene wipes, baby wipes, napkins, facial tissue or paper towels — should avoid flushing them.
“Despite some packaging claims of being flushable, these items must be thrown away in the trash,” sanitary sewer/stormwater manager Krista Johnston said in a statement.
Johnston said the items do not break down properly and can clog sewer pipes.
“It is important that this shortage of toilet paper does not create another public health issue for our community," she said. “It is important to get the word out to bag paper towels, napkins, facial tissue and wipes used instead of toilet paper. Put it with your regular trash that goes to the City landfill.”
Library halts programming
The Natrona County Library is temporarily suspending all programming effective immediately. That includes outreach and bookmobile services. The closures are effective until April 13. Other services will continue as usual.
Aeronautics meeting moved to teleconference
The Wyoming Aeronautics Commission's regularly scheduled meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday will now be held by teleconference. The accompanying dinner and tours have been canceled.
News conference called
Natrona County Emergency Management will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. to discuss the community's response to coronavirus. The presser will be held in conjunction with "the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement and first responder agencies, along with Wyoming Medical Center, Natrona County School District and other partnering organizations."
Find updates this afternoon on Trib.com.
School district details cleaning regimen
The Natrona County School District provided some details Friday on its attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
"All NCSD schools, buildings, and busses are following the designated cleaning and disinfecting procedures and Centers for Disease Control recommended guidelines as related to Coronavirus," the district said in a Facebook post. "NCSD is disinfecting all touch surfaces daily in all schools, buildings, and busses until further notice. We are utilizing CDC approved cleaning and disinfecting agents in buildings with known allergies that are documented by a health care official in a 504 health plan. All NCSD utilized cleaning agents are approved by the CDC to kill the Coronavirus-19 on surfaces.
"Natrona County School District is working in direct collaboration with the Wyoming Department of Health, Casper Natrona County Public Health Department, the Natrona County Emergency Management Office, the Wyoming Department of Education, and other appropriate agencies to monitor information as related to the Coronavirus."
Community colleges make changes
Four Wyoming community colleges are extending their spring breaks: Eastern Wyoming College, the Northern Wyoming Community College District, Northwest College and Casper College.
The latter three will also move many of their classes online in some capacity to limit spread of the coronavirus. Casper College's classes will primarily be online until April 12.
Laramie County, Central Wyoming and Western community colleges have not said whether they will extend breaks or move classes online.
Cheyenne officials meet
Cheyenne city officials met Thursday with local health officials and Laramie County School District No. 1 officials — the first in a series of meetings Mayor Marian Orr wants to begin, likely on a weekly basis.
"The meeting provided a thorough discussion regarding immediate next steps as it relates to COVID-19 in Cheyenne and Laramie County," the announcement said. "The health and well-being of our community is a top priority. The City and local partners are committed to helping prevent the spread of this virus, and others, in our public spaces."
Fire department: Don't go to ER for respiratory distress
The Natrona County Fire District addressed the ongoing COVID-19 concerns with a statement Friday morning:
"Natrona County, all emergency response agencies within the county are working together in regards to the Corona Virus," it read. "We ask for your cooperation as we all try to limit the spread of Corona Virus in our communities. If you believe that you have the Corona Virus and if you are not having trouble breathing, you are safer at home. There is no treatment for COVID-19, and the majority of cases are mild. The Emergency Room is not an appropriate triage center for people who are not in respiratory distress.
"Remember: Testing for COVID-19 is not a medical emergency. If you have reason to believe you might have the virus, and are not experiencing difficulty breathing you should:
- Call your doctor’s office and follow medical advice.
- If you do not have a medical provider, call the Casper-Natrona County Health Department’s patient hotline, 307-577-9892, to be evaluated over the phone.
- If after hours or on weekends, and you are not in respiratory distress, self-quarantine at home and wait until the phone lines are open."
Casino cancels promotion
The Wind River Hotel & Casino is canceling Club 55 promotions on Tuesdays, starting March 24. It also announced in a Facebook post that staff is increasing its frequency of cleaning and sanitizing. Hand-sanitizing stations have been added around the facility.
The hotel and casino plan to continue normal operations, according to the post.
Photos: Empty shelves and shuttered events as coronavirus reaches Wyoming
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