This graph shows the number of coronavirus cases to be confirmed since the first case was diagnosed in Wyoming on March 12. Thursday saw the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases so far. (Wyoming News Exchange)

New cases of COVID-19 spiked in Wyoming this week as several days saw increases near or at record highs since the pandemic began in March.

Thursday’s 36 new cases was the highest number identified in a single day. Monday was also a standout with 27 new cases. 

All told, the state added 105 new confirmed cases since Sunday, and 24 probable but unconfirmed cases. The state has a total of 1,052 confirmed cases. That means 10% of the state’s total known cases were discovered this week. There has not been a similar spike in testing numbers, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

There have been 781 recoveries of confirmed cases, suggesting the state has 271 active confirmed cases of the virus. 

Three people had been hospitalized because of a recent outbreak in Uinta County as of Tuesday, according to the Uinta County Herald. Two people were in intensive care while a third was recovering at home. The southwest county is home to an outbreak that officials said began in bars and has driven one of the steepest climbs in case counts in the state. 

Five people were hospitalized statewide as of Friday morning.

Gov. Mark Gordon and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist have not reimposed any restrictions as a result of the spike in cases. Gordon did not hold a press conference this week, though he has done so nearly every week since the pandemic began.

“We expected to see more cases over time and believe we are in a better position to respond now than earlier,” Harrist said in a written statement on Wednesday. “However, this virus has shown us simple actions and choices that might not seem like a big deal at the time can harm others and quickly change the disease picture within a community.”

Workers at five different Cheyenne restaurants have either tested positive or are probable COVID-19 cases. The city of Cheyenne cancelled its Fridays at the Plaza events for the summer out of fear COVID-19 could spread during the outdoor events, Mayor Marian Orr told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. 

Up north, however, the Cody Stampede Rodeo received approval from the state to host nearly 3,000 people when it runs this coming week. The number is around 45% normal capacity of the rodeo’s arenas. Harrist asked the rodeo organizers to encourage face coverings for attendees. The Cody Nite Rodeo is already underway, though with a reduced number of spectators. 

Wyoming is not immune to the national political divide that’s made COVID-19-related health orders and recommendations the subject of heated debate. Teton County residents sought an intervention from the U.S. attorney for Wyoming, who told the complainers he was “actively monitoring” the county’s health orders, WyoFile reported this week. 

Meanwhile, the Wyoming Republican Party kicked off its 2020 convention in Gillette, and photographs posted to social media from the event suggested little compliance with health guidelines. 

Images posted to Twitter by U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Lummis prompted a response from one of the state’s top doctors. 

“Yikes! Not a single mask visible in that picture,” Dr. David Wheeler, the head of the Wyoming Medical Society, wrote in a reply to Lummis’s post. “Now would be a good time to really encourage mask usage and social distancing as we see the COVID cases spiking exponentially. This looks like a potential super-spreader event to me.”

The sharp rise in cases was perhaps tempered for some by mildly good news on the economic front. New data from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services show unemployment numbers fell slightly in May as some businesses reopened. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.6% in April to 8.8% in May. 

The decrease occurred in most counties, “perhaps suggesting small scale improvement in labor markets around the state,” DWS officials wrote in a press release. Unemployment rates remain significantly higher than last year. 

But the state’s dire fiscal situation is only beginning to impact Wyoming life. This week the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which includes colleges in Sheridan and Gillette, cut athletic programs and a culinary institute and laid off 16 people. More cuts are likely to follow in the coming weeks as the Gordon administration prepares to roll out its own budget reductions. 

As hot days settle over the state, residents and visitors across Wyoming rediscovered their favorite swimming holes and river banks. Such joys these days offer escape from more than just the heat. 

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Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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4 Comments

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  1. This made up Virus pandemic, should awaken the average Wy citizen that the Big GOV wants to be your dictator and this is just another plot to take away my rights to a free and safe passage from my house to the store OR INGAGE IN COMMERCE or friends house, we have had VIRUS here from the begining of time and we havent all died yet, as with ALL DISEASES THEY AFFECT THE OLD AND BABIES, THE REST OF US GET SICK AND RECOVER JUST FINE AND HAVE BUILT UP OUR OWN ANT BODIES TO FIGHT THE COROAVIRUS ANOTHER DAY

    1. Douglas, with all due respect, the virus nor pandemic is not made up, hence the magnitude of deaths across America and the world. That’s an objective fact that can’t be subjectively denied. Secondly, you have and will always have “free and safe passage” from your house to the store or from your house to your friends’ house; no one is preventing you from that free and safe passage in any way, shape or form, nor is the government prohibiting you from “ingaging” in commerce. Lastly, a few edits, if you don’t mind:
      *engaging
      *haven’t
      *antibodies
      *Coronavirus

      Take care and stay safe!

  2. COVID:

    The entire hospitality & service industry is a ‘super spreader’. The “new normal” for tourists is just doing the normal stuff somewhere else. The ideal that we can create safe spaces for millions of visitors to Wyoming is simply false. We can barely create safe spaces for ourselves after reopening.

    The Dollar Store used to sell 11oz hand sanitizer bottles. Now, a 2oz bottle of hand sanitizer now goes for $1. Like free condoms for the masses at health departments, affordable supplies to battle COVID-19 need to reach the masses before you can even think of saying you’re ready to return to normal (new or old). It is a red flag when the masses can’t get affordable supplies and must continue to work in environments which are prime vectors for a virus transmission.

    UNEMPLOYMENT:

    The jobless rate in Teton County is the highest in the state at 15%.

    Over 100 help-wanted ads ran in the local paper on Friday with many for multiple positions. A Dept of Workforce Services job search had over 200 opening over the last 2 weeks for Teton County. There is a problem beyond the availability of jobs.

    SCHOOL SPORTS:

    “This week the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which includes colleges in Sheridan and Gillette, cut athletic programs”

    That idea should extend to all high school athletic programs. Not only do we spend way too much money on secondary athletic programs to begin with but athletic programs have less to do with physical fitness (or education) with each new dollar spent. School districts are spending millions directly related to battling COVID-19. They will spend millions more if it is spread by students traveling across the state to play games.