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The entrance sign at Life Care Center of Cheyenne is seen Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, just north of Frontier Mall. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – As the number of COVID-19 cases has spiked to record highs across Wyoming, transmission of the virus has also picked up in the state’s long-term care facilities, resulting in the death of a resident at a Cheyenne facility early Friday.

Life Care Center of Cheyenne was reporting a total of 16 positive cases among its residents, including three that resulted in hospitalizations, as of Friday. One of those residents died early Friday due to complications from the virus.

“We are deeply saddened to lose one of our Life Care residents who we consider our family,” Life Care Center Executive Director Clint Scearce said in a statement on the facility’s website. “We send our deepest heartfelt sympathy to this resident’s family and loved ones.”

Although it had not yet been reported by the Wyoming Department of Health as of Friday afternoon, the COVID-19 fatality brought Wyoming’s death toll from the virus to 58 since the pandemic began in March.

The Life Care Center had avoided any positive cases until last Sunday, Oct. 11, when two staff members at the facility tested positive at outside clinics. Four residents showing COVID-19 symptoms were then immediately tested and found to have contracted the virus.

By late Thursday, an additional 12 residents had tested positive for the virus, which puts older people at a higher risk of developing severe complications. Several of the infected residents have been isolated in the facility’s “red” COVID-19 unit.

“We will continue to stay in regular communication with our patients’ loved ones and continue to update with any change of conditions,” Scearce said in a statement.

By Friday, four additional staff members had also tested positive for the virus, bringing the total of positive cases among staff to six. Officials at Life Care Center had not responded to additional requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, another nursing home in Cheyenne, Granite Rehabilitation and Wellness, was reporting four positive cases among its residents, as well as three cases among its staff, according to statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health.

Officials at Granite Rehabilitation and Wellness had not responded to multiple requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.

The increase in COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities has not been limited to Laramie County. In total, 15 facilities across Wyoming have ongoing situations involving COVID-19, according to Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti.

Nearly half of those facilities identified their first case of COVID-19 within the last 10 days, Deti said. The outbreak at Life Care Center appears to be one of the most severe, with only two other nursing homes – the Laramie Care Center and the Goshen Healthcare Community – reporting double-digit cases among residents.

The coronavirus has been devastating for nursing homes nationwide. More than 84,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, representing about 40% of all coronavirus fatalities in the U.S., according to analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation released earlier this month.

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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