Wyoming recorded a new coronavirus-related death over the weekend, and new cases in five counties Monday pushed the state’s total confirmed coronavirus case count to 577.
Meanwhile, the deaths of two Wyoming residents in Colorado in March and April were added to the list of people whose deaths were linked to coronavirus in the state.
The Wyoming Department of Health reported Saturday an older Fremont County woman had died as a result of the illness. The woman had existing medical conditions that put her at higher risk of complications from the disease, the department said.
The two people who died earlier this year were an older woman from Carbon County who died in April and an older man from Laramie County who died in March, according to the state Department of Health.
Both were living in Colorado, but were considered permanent residents of Wyoming. When deaths are related to an illness such as coronavirus, the deaths are then linked to the state of permanent residence, said Guy Beaudoin, deputy state registrar with the Department of Health.
He added delays in the reporting of such deaths are not unusual.
Wyoming officials consider coronavirus to be the cause of or contributing factor to both deaths, he said in a news release
“In Wyoming, we have instructed medical certifiers such as attending physicians and coroners that COVID-19 should only be reported on death certificates when the disease caused or contributed to a person’s death,” he said. “So if someone who happens to be positive for COVID-19 died due to an automobile accident, their passing would not be counted as a coronavirus-related death.”
On Monday, new cases were recorded in Albany, Fremont, Hot Springs, Johnson and Natrona County, where six new cases surfaced.
The increase came one day after an outbreak at a Worland nursing home added seven new cases to the total.
The Health Department said five staff members and four residents of the Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center have been identified as infected with the coronavirus, although confirmation through testing of some patients is still pending.
The department said it was unsure how the virus was introduced to the facility. Officials are trying to collect samples from all employees and residents to determine how widespread the outbreak might be.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, said nursing homes have been a top priority for the Health Department in its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“We know the residents of these places are among the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and we have seen terrible situations occur in other nursing homes across the country,” she said. “We also recognize that the nature of long-term care facilities can make it very challenging to control the spread of the virus once it’s been introduced into a specific location.”
As of Monday, Fremont County had 203 cases; Laramie County had 119; Teton County had 69; Natrona County had 49; Campbell and Sweetwater counties had 16; Converse had 14; Washakie had 13; Sheridan and Johnson had 12; Lincoln had 11; Albany had 10; Uinta had eight; Carbon had seven; Crook had five; Goshen and Hot Springs had four, and Big Horn had two. Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties had one case each.
The number of recoveries seen since coronavirus was first detected in Wyoming in March stood at 504 as of Monday, 367 among patients with confirmed cases and 137 among those with probable cases.
A probable case is defined as one where the patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, but has not been tested for the illness. As of Monday, the Health Department said there were 189 cases.
The Health Department’s figures indicate there are 254 active cases of coronavirus around the state – 202 among those with confirmed cases and 52 among those with probable cases.
The number of active cases is determined by adding the confirmed and probable cases – 766 – subtracting the total number of recoveries and subtracting the number of deaths.
In other developments:
Special session: Wyoming’s Legislature wrapped up its two-day special session on Saturday by adopting three bills authorizing Gov. Mark Gordon to spend $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and specifying how some of that money should be spent. Legislators approved three bills. One sets aside $325 million for three programs to help businesses affected by the coronavirus and its related business closures. Another would use $15 million to compensate landowners for losses they may have experienced by allowing tenants to skip rent payments during the pandemic.
Rally: A group of about 75 people rallied outside of a Sheridan restaurant and brewery Friday in support of the company’s owner after police visited her to discuss the fact her workers were not wearing face masks. Tiffany McCormick said police threatened to close her restaurant because she was not requiring her employees to wear face masks, one of the state’s conditions for reopening bars and restaurants. The employees later put on face masks. Rally attendee David Harbour said he took part in the event to show his support for “personal accountability and personal freedom” and resist government overreach.
Tribal orders: The Wind River Indian Reservation tribes are continuing their “stay-at-home” order for reservation residents, along with a 9 p.m. curfew. Officials with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes said the measures are the best tools they have to prevent the spread of coronavirus among their citizens. The Wind River Tribal Court has said violators of the “stay-at-home” order could face a fine or jail time.
Tracing app: A phone app designed to alert people when they come close to someone with coronavirus is now active in Teton County. COVID Safe Paths can also be used to track a person’s movements over a two-week period in case that person comes down with coronavirus to determine who he or she might have had contact with. “Having that data on your phone will be useful if you get sick,” said Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton County’s health officer. County officials said the feature tracing a person’s movements will only be used if that person tests positive for coronavirus.
International postponed: Rock Springs’ celebration of its multicultural roots has been postponed for one year. International Day, which celebrates the 56 nationalities present in the city census at the beginning of the 20th century, will be held in July of 2021. Organizers said they postponed the event out of concern for the health of the community and a desire to make sure the event continues its trend of record-breaking attendance.
Cookies are back: Girl Scout cookies are back on the menu. The Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming announced that cookie orders placed before the program was halted in mid-March will soon be delivered and cookie sales resumed last week. The annual program usually ends in April, but will be extended through June 30.