Test kits for COVID-19 were delivered to Gillette this week by pilots from the Cowboy State Volunteers, the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security reports.
Gillette was one of 10 cities across the state to receive Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 equipment, which have 12 testing kits each.
Heather Tottingham of the Wyoming Department of Health accompanied volunteer pilot Mike Gray on his flight from Cheyenne to Casper, then on to Gillette and Newcastle.
“I’m very grateful to the Cowboy State Volunteers. With their help, we were able to make deliveries to 10 Wyoming communities in one day,” Tottingham said. “They generously donated their time and fuel cost to help Unified Command with this important task.
“It gave me the unique opportunity to personally make sure these machines made it to their destinations safely.”
In their regular public updates on Wyoming’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist have repeatedly commented on an ongoing shortage of testing supplies.
It’s a problem that’s squeezing health agencies across the nation, including Wyoming. Along with a shortage of the kits, the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory also has a shortage of supplies to conduct the COVID-19 tests.
Testing supplies were also flown to Lander, Pinedale, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Kemmerer, Thermopolis and Cody. The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security has made deliveries across the state in one day before, but the pilots allowed the agency do it more quickly and efficiently, said spokesperson Kelly Ruiz.
All the aircraft were provided by Wyoming pilots.
“We fly our own airplanes and no one gets paid except for fuel and oil used on a flight,” said Cowboy State Volunteers President Ken Johnston.
The group has members in Sheridan, Casper and Guernsey, but none in Gillette, Johnston said he would like to change that. If anyone in Gillette “has an aircraft and is willing to help out,” he wants to talk to them.
Members also help with things like search and rescue, and Johnston said it would be “great” to have a pilot in the Gillette area if needed. There also are instances that arise where something or somebody needs to be flown to or from Gillette, like when Campbell County Health’s doors were closed because of a ransomware attack this past fall.
A Casper pilot from Cowboy State Volunteers flew someone from Homeland Security and an IT person from Cheyenne to Gillette during that crisis. The organization, which started three years ago, also transports for the U.S. Forest Service.
“We’re the cheapest (transportation) out there and we’re the fastest,” Johnston said.
Johnston asked anyone interested in joining to either call him at 303-589-0637 or visit cowboystatevolunteers.org to fill out an application.