Coronavirus case count up to 30, Yellowstone closed

Two cases have fully recovered

Via Wyoming News Exchange

Wyoming’s coronavirus case count climbed to 30 as Gov. Mark Gordon warned state residents that the impact of the disease may be felt in the state for some time.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service closed Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on Tuesday in response to requests from health officers in surrounding counties.

The Wyoming Department of Health reported Natrona County’s second case late Monday.

However, the increase in case numbers was tempered with the news that five patients have recovered, three in Sheridan County and two in Fremont County. Health officials in each county reported isolation for the patients had ended.

The newest case, reported Tuesday afternoon, was in Laramie County, which has eight.

Fremont County continues to be the state’s hardest hit with a COVID-19 case count of 10.

Sheridan County had four cases, two were diagnosed in Teton, Carbon and Natrona counties and the Health Department reported there was one case each in Campbell and Park counties.

Park and Teton county officials joined their counterparts in Park County, Montana and Gallatin County, Montana, in urging Yellowstone and Grand Teton to close.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a news release. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.” 

As the number of infections grew on Monday, Gov. Mark Gordon said during a press briefing that the impact of coronavirus is likely to be felt in Wyoming for some time.

“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” he said. “This is going to impact life in Wyoming for a long time to come.”

The state has already ordered the closure of businesses likely to draw more than 10 people and has prohibited all gatherings of 10 people or more.

Gordon he does not expect to issue a “shelter in place” order for people to remain in their homes in the near future, although he did say further restrictions may be necessary.

“What we’re trying to do is to find a balance that respects private property rights, personal liberties and prudent health standards,” he said. “We can hopefully look to Wyoming being a bellwether state that leads the nation in not having to proceed with shelter in place. But that can only come with citizens stepping up and doing their part with social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and doing their best to meet these orders.”

Gordon is among 21 Republican governors to send a letter to congressional leadership seeking additional funding for states in a $2 trillion stimulus package that was still being debated in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday morning.

The spending bill would provide $20 billion to the states to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. 

“It’s a start,” Gordon said during his news briefing Monday. “I don’t believe that this will be repaired easily. I think the consequences are very long term and I do believe that we will be back with needs for more direct infusions to the state.”

In other developments:

Fraud warning: U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen warned Wyoming residents to be wary of fraud schemes that have their roots in the coronavirus illness. Klaassen said around the country, a variety of different scams have surfaced.

“It is unfortunate, but criminals often use times of adversity to their advantage,” Klaassen said. “They see moments where our attention is distracted or we are susceptible to emotional responses as an opportunity to commit brazen acts of fraud.”

Scams seen around the country include: Companies and individuals selling fake testing kits, masks and treatments, “phishing” emails sent from entities posing as the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and malicious websites that appear to share coronavirus information but in fact infect computers with malware.

Remote education: Most of the state’s community colleges have decided to keep their campuses closed for the rest of the spring semester and provide education via computer. 

Sheridan, Gillette and Casper colleges, along with Northwestern Wyoming College, Laramie County Community College and Western Wyoming Colleges, all announced they will offer classes online.

Eastern Wyoming College, where spring break ended Monday, will provide classes online or through “modified” means, according to the college’s website.

Hand sanitizer: Gordon directed the Wyoming Business Council to allocate funds to Wyoming distilleries and breweries to help them buy the supplies they need to manufacture hand sanitizer.

“This collaborative effort represents the Wyoming spirit we all know and love,” he said in a news release. “Folks banding together in challenging economic times to support public health and advance the greater good.”

Distilleries that have committed to making sanitizer include Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne, Pine Bluffs Distilling, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby and the Jackson Hole Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson.

Outdoor Expo: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department canceled its annual Outdoor Expo, to be held May 9-11. The department made the decision to minimize the likelihood of contact between people.

Wind River Reservation: The Wind River Inter-Tribal Council asked all Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal members to voluntarily self-isolate. The tribes said residents should leave their homes only for emergencies, to seek medical care or to buy essential goods or services.

Public restrooms: Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forest officials announced the forests’ public restrooms would be closed due to worries about spreading the coronavirus. Some guard stations and rental cabins will also be closed in the coming week.


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