Wyoming will face a health care crisis if its residents do not heed recommendations to stay in their homes, the president of the Wyoming Medical Society said Monday.
Dr. David Wheeler, president of the Medical Society, said during a news conference held by Gov. Mark Gordon that the society supports any measure taken by government at any level to encourage people to stay in their homes.
Unless residents practice social distancing, the coronavirus will spread through the state quickly, eventually infecting health care providers and overwhelming the health care system to the point no one will be able to get basic care, Wheeler said.
“This is a grim outcome, but we can avoid this if we start working together today,” he said. “If we flatten the curve now, our hospitals will have more time to prepare. If we flatten the curve now, fewer people will be sick at any given time. If we work hard during this time to surge hospital capacity and at the same time slow the spread of the disease, many more of us will make it through to the other end of this.”
Wheeler’s comments came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 95 on Monday, a gain of eight over number seen Monday.
Five counties reported increases in cases: Teton, Sheridan, Fremont, Laramie and Sweetwater.
The number of coronavirus cases on Monday morning stood at 24 in Fremont County, 20 in Laramie County, 17 in Teton County, nine in Natrona County, eight in Sheridan County, five in Johnson County, three in Carbon County and two in Sweetwater. Albany, Campbell, Converse, Goshen, Park, Sublette, and Washakie counties all reported one case.
As Teton County case numbers grew, both Teton County and Jackson officials issued “stay at home” orders.
The orders, both issued Saturday, are similar. Teton County’s order applies to those age 65 and over and those suffering from high-risk medical conditions and Jackson’s applies to all Jackson residents.
In each case, the orders require people to stay home, although they allow people to leave their homes to obtain supplies such as groceries, medical care and supplies or to take part in outdoor recreation, as long as people stay at least six feet away from each other.
“It’s not like we’re living through the Battle of Britain here,” said Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon. “We can get through this.”
Three statewide orders aimed at limiting the spread of the virus have closed schools, businesses likely to draw 10 or more people, businesses that provide personal services — such as hair salons and tattoo parlors — and have banned gatherings of 10 or more people.
The orders were extended from April 3 to April 17 by Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, on Friday.
President Donald Trump is recommending that social distancing guidelines remain in effect until the end of April and Gordon said during the news conference that he and Harrist are examining the state’s situation every day to determine whether Wyoming’s orders should be extended as well.
Gordon also urged Wyoming residents not to congregate in grocery stores and asked store owners to restrict the flow of customers through their doors to avoid having groups of people in one area.
“This is incredibly important,” he said. “If we can continue to work to flatten the curve, evidence has shown that we can defeat this virus before it becomes a challenge for the state.”
In other developments:
Hundreds self-isolating: In Fremont County, the county hardest hit by the coronavirus with 23 cases as of Monday morning, health officials estimated that more than 400 people had been advised by health care professionals to self-isolate.
“The disease is active in the community,” said a news release from Fremont County Incident Management Team. “We support the extended governor’s orders and urge everyone to continue to self-isolate.”
Food ‘clearinghouse:’ The Wyoming Hunger Initiative task force on Saturday announced the launch of a “food clearinghouse” website that families struggling with access to food can visit to see resources available in each county.
“The sudden additional demand on food pantries statewide requires creative solutions, as will protecting the health of our Wyoming neighbors and friends at highest risk for contracting COVID-19,” said First Lady Jennie Gordon, who heads the Wyoming Hunger Initiative.
The resource list can be found at this website: https://www.nohungerwyo.org/covid
Business assistance: Two state agencies on Friday offered $300,000 in grants to help Wyoming businesses avert or shorten layoffs, but officials said the limit for grant applications had been reached by Monday morning. Gordon said he was working to find more resources to put into the “layoff aversion” program being run by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and Wyoming Workforce Development Council.
Hoarding medicine: The Wyoming Board of Medicine is warning doctors not to misuse or hoard drugs seen as potential treatments for coronavirus. Members of the state pharmacy board have heard reports that physicians are writing prescriptions for two medications that have reportedly shown some promise for the treatment of COVID-19.
“(The board is) saying ‘We need to take this seriously; if you’re inappropriately prescribing this and giving it to people who aren’t symptomatic, that’s a violation of the (medical practice) act and we’ll take action,” said the Kevin Bohnenblust, the Board of Medicine’s executive director.
Remote learning plan: Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow reminded school districts on Friday that they must get their plans for the remote education of students in place by April 6.
District plans must be approved by the state Department of Education by April 6, Balow said, or the districts will not receive state funding.
Empty churches: Many churches across the state turned to online or outside services over the weekend as the governor’s order limiting gatherings to 10 people or more entered its second weekend. Sheridan’s Wesleyan Church announced it would hold “drive in” Easter services on April 12, where families can remain in their cars and listen to the service on the radio.
Beer assistance: The Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild is asking local, state and federal officials for emergency assistance for its member breweries. According to a news release from the group, many breweries have closed their doors or limited operations in response to state closure orders, laying off hundreds of employees.
The guild is asking that the state give breweries the choice to offer curbside pickup and delivery.
Girl Scout Cookies: Those who have ordered Girl Scout cookies to get through the pandemic will have to wait a little longer to get their treats. The Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming has announced the suspension of all in-person delivery and sales.
However, the Girl Scouts have also launched a new program to get cookies in the hands of those dealing directly with the coronavirus — medical staff, first responders and volunteers. Through the “Eat. Share. Show Communities We Care” program, people can purchase cookies online for donation.
Liquor deliveries: Gordon on Monday signed an executive order allowing restaurants with curbside takeout or drive-through service that hold a liquor license to serve alcohol with their meals.
The move came after the Sheridan City Council agreed to give the same kind of latitude to its liquor license holders in an emergency meeting Friday.