General covid image

The word "hope" is spelled out on a houses window surround by hearts. In addition to stuffed teddy bears being placed up and down Main Street, residents across Gillette have begun putting hearts in their windows as a symbol of hope amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming reached 212 on Monday with the diagnosis of 12 new cases in eight counties.

As case numbers continued to grow, the state’s legislative leaders signaled that a special session to deal with the impacts of the pandemic is a distinct likelihood.

Monday’s new cases were reported in Campbell, Converse, Fremont, Goshen, Laramie, Lincoln, Natrona and Uinta counties.

Monday’s increase follows growth in the case count by 34 over the weekend, an increase of slightly more than 20% from Friday.

As of Monday evening, Laramie County had 45 cases; Teton County had 40; Fremont County had 38; Natrona had 26; Sheridan had 12; Campbell had nine; Johnson had eight; Sweetwater had five; Albany, Carbon, Converse, Lincoln and Washakie had four each, and Goshen and Uinta had three. Crook, Park and Sublette counties each had one.

The number of patients recovered from coronavirus also increased slightly over the weekend, growing by three to total 52. Laramie and Teton counties both reported 10 complete recoveries.

To deal with the continuing spread of the illness, more work will be needed from legislators, Senate President Drew Perkins and House Speaker Steve Harshman said in a letter to legislators.

“What is becoming clearer every day is the need for a special session or even potentially multiple special sessions this interim to address the health and economic impacts on Wyoming wrought by this virus and collapse of the energy commodity markets,” the Casper Republicans said.

The Legislature’s Management Council, a leadership group that sets the agenda for the Legislature’s committees, will meet April 16 to assign specific topics to committees related to coronavirus, its economic impact and the appropriation of emergency funds from the federal government.

After conducting studies in May, the committees will consider draft legislation for a possible special session in late May or early June.

In other developments:

Mask use: The Wyoming Department of Health began recommending that all people wear cloth face masks when visiting a location where other people will be present, such as a grocery store or pharmacy. Dr. Alexia Harrist said some people can show no symptoms of coronavirus but spread the disease to others. The masks will help prevent that spread, she said.

“If and when you do need to go out into the community, this is an extra voluntary measure the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is suggesting to help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others,” Harrist said in a news release.

Back to class: Wyoming’s students were scheduled to resume their classes this week, but not in their usual classrooms. The extended spring break for students that began in mid-March was to end Monday and Tuesday in most districts as students resumed their lessons from home. Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow announced last week that all 48 of the state’s school districts had won approval for their plans to teach students at home through a combination of distance learning techniques.

Equipment diversion: Gov. Mark Gordon said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have been canceling shipments of protective medical equipment intended for Wyoming. He said the equipment is being shipped to “hot spots” for coronavirus in the eastern United States. “It is very frustrating, extremely frustrating, when we have orders that are supposed to be on their way and find that FEMA, the agency that’s supposed to be helping us, is preempting that order,” he said.

Virus clusters: Medical officials in two counties announced they had determined that COVID-19 diagnoses in a significant number of patients were all related to two facilities. In Natrona County, 10 coronavirus cases were linked to the Wyoming Behavioral Institute, said Hailey Bloom, a spokeswoman for the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

In Fremont County, nine new coronavirus cases reported Saturday were all related to a Lander retirement center, said Mike Jones, public information officer for the Fremont County Incident Management Team.

Graduation canceled: Traditional spring commencement ceremonies at the University of Wyoming were canceled by university officials Friday. Instead, the university will hold a “virtual ceremony” to be broadcast May 16. “Under the circumstances, we really have no choice but to look for alternatives to the public gatherings on campus — just as other universities across the country are doing,” acting UW President Neil Theobald said in a news release.

Insurance costs: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, the state’s largest health insurance provider, announced it will pay all costs for its members associated with COVID-19 testing and related services. The company also announced it will waive 30-day refill limits for prescription medication and pay all costs related to telemedicine for its members, even if those services are not related to COVID-19.

Social distance failure: Rock Springs police are pointing to a crash involving five unrelated teenagers as an example of how not to social distance. Police reported the teens, all under the age of 16, were riding in a pickup truck when the crash occurred. The Rock Springs Police Department used a news release on the incident to point out many people are not obeying advice to stay at home. “Remember folks, this is a pandemic, not a party,” said the news release.

Shrine Bowl canceled: The annual football game between the best high school players in the state has been canceled. Organizers of the annual Shrine Bowl, scheduled for June 13, said it was canceled both because of health concerns and because organizers did not want to put a burden on groups that have traditionally sponsored the game. “In addition to potential risks that linger as game time nears, we cannot in good conscience ask for financial support from communities as they are left reeling in economic effects associated with the outbreak,” Frank Selby, the Shrine Bowl’s executive director, said in a news release.

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