Covid Screening

Nicole Damian pulls out some Clorox wipes to sanitize the table as she awaits patients at Campbell County Public Health earlier this year during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wyoming has submitted its plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for distributing and administering a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

While work continues to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, states are preparing for how best to quickly and efficiently have their residents get the vaccine. To that end, Wyoming’s plan is a phased approach designed to get the vaccine to at-risk people and health care workers first.

The Wednesday afternoon announcement comes as Gov. Mark Gordon gave another briefing updating the state of the virus in Wyoming, which he said is “very concerning.”

After months of showing little to no COVID-19 growth, the virus is surging in Wyoming, he said.

“By now, most of you understand there is a surge of COVID cases that began last month,” Gordon said. “It is not a curve, it is more a line upwards.

“COVID is widespread throughout the state. I would say most of our citizens know someone who has been sick.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Wyoming Department of Health reports 8,305 confirmed and 1,543 probable cases in the state with 7,070 recoveries. There have been 61 deaths.

In Campbell County, the number of confirmed cases jumped by 36 over the past 24 hours, from 581 to 617. There also are 59 probables with 441 recoveries.

Since Sept. 8, Wyoming has gone from seeing an average of 28 new confirmed cases a day to more than 150 a day, said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer. Also, the rate of those testing positive has grown from less than 2% to more than 5%.

“Six weeks go, Wyoming was in a much better position then we are today,” she said.

While there has been more testing for the virus, the pace of growth is greater that to account for just more testing, Gordon said. It’s led to the state seeing the type of outbreak officials were fearful of early on when an emergency was declared in March.

“This is what we planned for last spring,” Gordon said. “Frankly, it was a very pleasant surprise to me over the course of the summer that we didn’t see this type of escalation. That’s no longer true.”

Since announcing a free at-home testing program last week, 4,000 saliva tests have been sent out to Wyoming residents, he said.

The state has used CARES Act money to contract with a company called Vault. The test kits come through Vault at aulthealth.com/covid.

The governor also said that the Wyoming National Guard over the past couple of weeks has been a great help around the state in keeping up with contact tracing. Moving forward, the Guard will stand down and the state has contracted with a private company to provide the help.

Gordon also responded to an incident where a person who tested positive for COVID-19 knowingly continued to go out in public without a mask or other precautions. That led to another person become ill with the virus.

People believing they have the right to infect others because they don’t want to wear a mask are not only wrong, they’re dangerous, he said.

When that happens, “our country, our patriotism, has gone awry,” the governor said. “We can do that without compromising our liberty.”

A-OK for the election

Along with a COVID-19 update, Gordon was joined by Secretary of State Ed Buchanan to give a state-of-the-election update.

Put simply, Wyoming’s in good shape, Buchanan said.

“We have all the sanitation procedures in place, the signage in place. Nothing has changed there (from the primary),” he said. “We have pretty sanitary methods in place for voting.”

He said people are encouraged to vote at the polls if they want and praised state workers and communities that have stepped up to volunteer to work the general election. That means some counties can open more polling places to maintain social distancing for voters.

“Overall, you will see more polling locations open, depending on the county where you live,” he said. Those volunteers “certainly answered the call and no counties are down poll workers.”

As has been reported in other states, Wyoming overall has had a “tremendous” number of absentee ballots returned or requested.

Buchanan also said he anticipates no problems with Wyoming’s general election process.

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