LARAMIE – Stitches Acute Care Center has seen the first positive result in Laramie for the novel coronavirus, commonly called COVID-19, according to a Facebook post from the urgent care clinic early Wednesday afternoon.

The post indicated the clinic had reported the positive result to the Wyoming Department of Health, and it was later added to the agency’s website that includes a breakdown of cases by county.

The statewide count sat at 47 Wednesday evening, according to the Department of Health website. Those positive cases include three in Carbon County, Albany County’s neighbor to the west, and 12 in Laramie County, its neighbor to the east. The highest number of cases is 14 in Fremont County, where some of the early positive results were reported.

As of Wednesday morning, Ivinson Memorial Hospital had performed 18 tests with 13 negative results and five tests pending.

Gov. Mark Gordon on Wednesday said Wyomingites “must be honest about the enormity of this challenge” if the state is to avoid a greater degree of community spread that could put health care providers in jeopardy.

“Our efforts have been designed to make sure that we do our best to flatten the curve,” Gordon said during a news conference. “It’s absolutely imperative we flatten the curve, because by doing so we will not overwhelm our health care services. Let me repeat: It’s absolutely essential we flatten the curve by staying home, making sure we do social distancing and practice good hygiene. Because we want to make sure that should this crisis come in greater detail, we’ve seen it increase over the last few days, that we have adequate hospital facilities. And it’s not just for COVID virus that we’re worried about this. If hospitals are filled and someone has a stroke or breaks a leg, you will not be able to be taken into a hospital. So it is essential we flatten the curve by staying home.”

There were three orders from the governor’s office as of Wednesday, closing most public places, limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and the latest closing specific establishments, such as nail and hair salons and tattoo parlors. Those measures, Gordon said, will only be effective if people abide by them, helping the state to avoid more draconian measures, including a “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order.

“We’re trying to avoid that order because of the complexity that it involves, but if we have to, we have means to enforce it through law enforcement or others,” the governor said.

Between the time the news conference started at 1 p.m. and its conclusion just more than an hour later, the total number of cases increased by three, which included the Albany County case.

Department of Health Director Mike Ceballos said Wyoming, as is the case nationally, will continue prioritizing patients for testing as long as supplies are limited. Gordon said it’s important to remember there are more positive cases in communities that have not been confirmed by testing.

“We will see more of these tests coming in positive,” Gordon said. “What should be on every Wyoming citizen’s mind is that we started only about a week and a half ago with one confirmed case, and now we’re at 41. So be thinking about what this means for people in Wyoming.”

WyoTech to delay start

With growing concern about the spread of COVID-19, WyoTech is adjusting its plans for the coming weeks.

Students completing the most recent term took their online final Monday and Tuesday last week after the technical school released its students the prior Friday. With 30-35 students expected to come to campus to start a new term on March 31, WyoTech decided to push the start date back to April 6.

But spokeswoman Jadeen Mathis said as with K-12 schools in Albany County now planning on delayed starts, the decision on whether to move forward will come down to the circumstances when the date gets closer.

“We’re waiting to make a decision,” Mathis said.

Online courses just aren’t an option for WyoTech because of the high level of hands-on training that’s part of the programming, Mathis said.

“That would be a disservice to our other customers, our employers, to try and bypass any of the hands-on portion of what we do,” she said. “We believe in what we do and how we do it, so online is not an option for us.”

Even if WyoTech must close its doors for an extended period of time, Mathis remains confident the school will persevere through the crisis.

“WyoTech has been through some really difficult times, and they’ve always pulled through,” she said. “We are confident we are going to pull through this. We have a great team of passionate people that are committed to seeing this through. We’ll come out on top.”

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