“A number” of University of Wyoming students living off-campus have contracted the novel coronavirus, a university spokesman said Tuesday, and Albany County officials say that graduation parties and other social gatherings have contributed to a spike of cases in the area.
None of the students is “believed to be living in UW housing or working on campus,” spokesman Chad Baldwin told the Star-Tribune in an email. The exact number of students ill with the virus is unclear; Baldwin said the university didn’t have those figures, and messages sent to Albany County health officials were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
Albany County has seen its number of coronavirus cases spike in recent days, after it held relatively steady for weeks, even as other populous counties’ caseloads grew rapidly. Between May 21 and May 26, the county reported 11 new cases, doubling its total. According to a Tuesday press release from the county’s health department, two cases were identified Friday; five on Saturday; and three more Monday. Four more people are identified as likely having the disease.
Of the county’s 21 confirmed cases, seven have recovered.
In a statement, Albany County health officer Dr. Jean Allias said that “increased testing was not a factor in the increase.”
“The main cause of the dramatic increase seems to be graduation parties, camping trips and other social situations where people did not practice social distancing and other recommended practices,” the county wrote in its release. “Further, symptomatic and non-symptomatic patients returned to work and their families furthering the spread. Dr. Allias emphasized that our pandemic situation continues to be a public health EMERGENCY.”
The university’s classrooms and campus have been closed to in-person gatherings or habitation for more than two months. Officials there previously decided to also cancel in-person classes for the summer, though Baldwin said that university leaders are preparing to open school again — with social distancing measures in place — come the fall.
“We don’t have a campus where the virus is prevalent as far as we can tell,” Baldwin said earlier this month. “So we’d like to keep it that way. Bringing students from all over the country back here — it could be very difficult to maintain that level. But we’re going to do what we can, and there’s a commitment — and the trustees made it very clear — we’re going to take extraordinary steps to try to keep the virus out and, if it happens to be here, to prevent its spread.”
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