Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has closed off many of the main entrances to the facility on East 23rd Street. CRMC officials announced Wednesday, April 1, 2020, that the hospital will implement a “no visitors” policy at 6 a.m. Thursday, April 2, as part of its ongoing effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the hospital. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Two nurses at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19, and to help mitigate the virus’ spread, the hospital adopted a no-visitor policy that begins at 6 a.m. today.

According to CRMC President and CEO Tim Thornell, the visitor restrictions are not related to the staff diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and were decided upon before the cases were confirmed.

“It is simply part of our ongoing evaluation and efforts to improve the safety of our environment for both our patients and our staff,” Thornell said in an email to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

The two employees were not tested for the virus at CRMC, according to a memo sent to CRMC staff, and the CRMC Occupational Health team will be working to identify people the two staff members may have had exposure-level contact with.

“Our Occupational Health Department, in concert with Public Health, is tracing and contacting anyone who may be at risk for contact exposure,” Thornell said.

Neither of the staff members were working in units with COVID-19 positive patients. So far, CRMC has treated three patients for coronavirus symptoms, and one of those three has been released from the hospital.

In addressing staff members who test positive for COVID-19, CRMC is following guidelines for health care worker care and treatment, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With about 2,100 staff members throughout the CRMC system, Thornell said while they hoped no employees would get the virus, it was “almost inevitable.”

But in the midst of everything going on, Thornell said he “could not be more proud” of the CRMC staff and the work they’re doing.

“Given that this is a very stressful time for everyone, health care workers are strong, courageous people,” Thornell said. “Our staff is very admirably answering the call to action to take care of our community in its time of need.”

CRMC has provided exceptions to the policy for certain groups of patients, including:

• Maternity: One support person is allowed per 24-hour period.

• Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Two parents or guardians are allowed per 24-hour period.

• Pediatric patients under the age of 18: Two parents or guardians are allowed per 24-hour period.

• Patients with a medical or behavioral disability: One caregiver is allowed per 24-hour period.

• End-of-life patients: Two visitors are allowed.

• Outpatient procedures or surgery: If necessary, one person is allowed to accompany a patient for support.

• No visitors under the age of 16 are allowed. If a patient comes to the emergency department with a minor child, the child will be allowed to remain with the patient if there is no other family member present to care for the child.

• Visitors with a cold, flu-like symptoms or a fever are not allowed in the hospital unless they are seeking medical care.

• Other exceptions may also be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

VA Medical Center

While no cases have been confirmed at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center, they are continuing strict visitation policies and screening anyone that comes through the doors, according to VA spokesman Sam House.

“A lot has not changed. However, we’ve been pretty strict from the very beginning,” House said Wednesday.

Now, a number of screening tents are set up outside the VA for anyone going into the facility. They take each person’s temperature and ask a series of questions to help determine the level of risk. Each veteran is allowed one visitor to accompany them to ensure that residents with accessibility or memory problems have the assistance they need.

In the nursing home, however, no visitors are allowed. Staff members have been using Skype with residents so they can keep in touch with their loved ones.

Across the state, the VA has had to close mobile clinics in Laramie, Wheatland and Torrington. The clinics in Rawlins, Fort Collins, Colorado, and Sydney, Nebraska, have all remained open, but for the safety of staff and patients, the VA is pushing telemedicine nationwide. Those three clinics are seeing patients via video calls through the VA Video Connect app.

“We’ve been able to use telemedicine to reach those communities and reach those veterans,” House said. The VA has been using telemedicine for a couple years now, and House said, “It has only gotten better.”

While the mobile clinics have adjusted their services to the situation at hand, House stressed the critical role VA hospitals play in the U.S. infrastructure, serving veterans with medical needs across the country. The fourth mission of the VA is to help the communities they provide care in, which means continuing to provide necessary services to those who have served.

“It is very critical that our hospital remains open and is able to provide care for our veterans,” House said.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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