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Second Wyoming case of coronavirus identified
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Second Wyoming case of coronavirus identified

Health officials have identified a second case of coronavirus in Wyoming, two days after the first diagnoses was confirmed.

The new patient is an older Fremont County man who is hospitalized, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Friday evening. The case is a presumptive positive, pending absolute confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state's first patient was a Sheridan County resident who was isolated at home and was doing well with what a doctor described as a mild case of the infection.

"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 state's second case of coronavirus was identified via lab testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory. The virus, which officials have described as highly contagious, is spread by close contact -- being within six feet of a person -- or by respiratory droplets from an infected person. 

The disease has proven most dangerous to older patients. Dr. Mark Dowell, the Natrona County health officer, said earlier this week that the average age of those Americans who'd died of COVID-19 was 80. It is also especially dangerous for those with chronic conditions or with compromised immune systems. 

Anyone with symptoms who has also been in contact with a COVID-19 patient or who has been in a virus hot spot is urged not to go to the emergency room unless in significant distress. Those with concerns are asked to call their primary care physicians, who will make the determination of whether a patient needs to be tested.

For several days, health officials across the state have said that there will be more cases identified in the Equality State. The novel coronavirus, which causes a disease dubbed COVID-19, is characterized by fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The first case earlier this week prompted the University of Wyoming and several community colleges to prepare moves away from in-person classes and contact. This second diagnosis comes just hours after Gov. Mark Gordon declared a state of emergency, which he said was mostly intended to unlock needed federal funding.

The disease has swept across the United States in just a week's time. Montana reported its first four presumptive cases earlier Friday evening. Idaho also reported its first on Friday. Colorado declared a state of emergency with one of the largest case totals in the country. South Dakota has had several confirmed diagnoses and at least one death.

As of Friday afternoon, the Wyoming state lab had tested more than 20 people, with all but one -- and now two -- testing negative. 

Minutes before the Wyoming Department of Health reported the second case, Central Wyoming College -- also in Fremont County -- announced it would extend its spring break by one week. It became the latest of Wyoming's community colleges -- as well as the University of Wyoming -- to extend the break in an attempt to limit the virus' spread.

In its announcement, Central Wyoming College said it would use the extended spring break to prepare students for distance learning. Faculty and staff would work on an individual basis with students to complete coursework.

Elsewhere in Wyoming, officials are investigating a potential cluster of unidentified illnesses in Big Horn County. A student or students were potentially exposed to the coronavirus at an extracurricular event; the results of that test were not completed by early Friday evening, and multiple health officials said it was likely the student or students did not have coronavirus.

Photos: Coronavirus in Wyoming

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Joshua Wolfson joined the Star-Tribune in 2007, covering crime and health before taking over the arts section in 2013. He also served as managing editor before being named editor in June 2017. He lives in Casper with his wife and their two kids.

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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