Republican U.S. Senate candidates — former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Michael Kemler, Donna Rice, Bryan Miller and Josh Wheeler — faced off during a debate in Sheridan on July 21, 2020. A total of nine GOP candidates discussed, among other issues, the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several agreed that Wyoming, which is facing a projected $1.5 billion deficit over the next two years, should not be allowed to use its federal relief money to balance its budget, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. (Matt Gaston/The Sheridan Press/Wyoming News Exchange)

Unemployment numbers improved and schools released reopening plans this week in Wyoming as COVID-19 metrics continued their upward trends. The state reported its 25th death, and the virus was detected in the Wyoming State Penitentiary — ending Wyoming’s distinction as one of only two states with zero cases in its state prison system.

Daily increases of new positive test results, which have been in the double digits for weeks, accelerated again. On Monday, the Department of Health reported 62 new cases — the largest single-day increase of cases yet. The previous record of 39 new cases came a week before. 

The old record was broken two more times this week. Tuesday saw 40 new lab-confirmed cases and Thursday saw 58. 

Active cases, which Gov. Mark Gordon has noted several times had hovered in the 200s before the summer surge, also rose. Active cases of lab-confirmed and probable cases surpassed 500 on Monday, and had climbed to 529 by Friday morning.

After worsening for much of July, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 improved, dropping from the month’s peak of 19 to 14. On Friday, only three of the state’s 182 ventilators and 30 out of the state’s 119 ICU beds were in use, the DOH reported. 

All told, the state added 195 new confirmed cases between Sunday and Friday morning — 57 more than the previous week’s growth. The state reported 1,923 total confirmed cases as of Friday, while its total recoveries sat at 1,457.

The latest of Wyoming’s 25 virus-related deaths, announced Tuesday, involved a Campbell County woman who had previously tested positive for the virus. The older woman did not have health conditions known to put patients at higher risk of complications and had not been hospitalized, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.  

Recent survey results released by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center indicate growing anxiety among residents about the disease.  

Some 45% of respondents reported they would be comfortable attending an outdoor event with up to 250 people — down from 56% in June. Since the June survey, there has also been an increase in the proportion of residents who support policies enacted to limit public gatherings (61%, up from 59%). And 42% think “the worst is yet to come in Wyoming,” a 14-point jump since June. 

However, support for the closure of K-12 schools, day cares, bars and restaurants continues to decline. 

With schools’ regularly scheduled opening dates drawing near and a national debate about reopening them raging, several districts around the state have released their plans for the fall. Most entail reopening for in-person learning with virtual options and contingency plans in the case of outbreaks. 

“Based on survey feedback, we know the majority of our families are ready to get back to in-person learning this fall,” Fremont County School District No. 1 said in its plan. “While we cannot mitigate every risk, through thoughtful and careful planning, we will build the systems to safely bring students and staff back to in-person learning in August.”

In Cheyenne, Wyoming’s largest school district’s plan includes opening a virtual district-run K-12 school, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. The Natrona County School District’s proposed plan, meanwhile, entails the purchase of 45,000 masks and contingencies that anticipate entire schools shutting down due to outbreaks, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. At UW, large lecture courses are being moved online

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Positive news arrived with the latest unemployment numbers. The Department of Workforce Services reported Tuesday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 8.8% in May to 7.6% in June. 

The largest decrease occurred in Teton County, where the unemployment rate fell from 15% to 9.3%. Park, Sheridan and Sublette counties also saw significant month-over-month declines. Natrona County had the highest unemployment rate in June at 11%.  

After three weeks of back and forth with the state, masks are now required in indoor public spaces in Teton County — the only county in the state to enact such an order. The order, which mandates that people wear masks while inside private businesses, receiving health care services or utilizing public transit, was approved as active virus case counts hit record levels and some businesses have opted to close again, the Jackson Hole News&Guide reports

The Department of Corrections, which had for months reported zero cases among its inmate population, ended that distinction this week when it reported that three inmates, one staffer and six healthcare workers of the Wyoming State Penitentiary tested positive during mass surveillance testing. The penitentiary has instituted containment protocols and is currently locked down, according to a press release.

Amid the swirl of grim pandemic news, Cheyenne Frontier Days gave residents something to look forward to: The event has booked country megastar Garth Brooks for its 2021 event.

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

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  1. Is the Breitbart peer reviewed scientific journal section before or after the Q anon nonsense that they regularly post? Or did Breitbart add the section next to all their positive case studies about the benefit on ingesting/injecting bleach? Do the Breitbart covid-19 articles get bumped from the top of their page in lieu of groundbreaking proof that the Earth is indeed flat?

    you are using a ridiculous source for your “valued” point of view. Breitbart science articles deserve to be ridiculed and dismissed along with those who hold value in them. you’re attempt to try and elevate a hacky, partisan site into a respected science information provider is laughable, and quite honestly embarrassing. When will the National Enquirer be used as your reference to prove that Elvis and Tupac are truly still alive?

    for the record, I never said, or even felt, that you were ignorant. But, as I said earlier, you should really try to vet your sources more carefully. the name Breitbart has no place in presenting fact based science information.

    1. Look up the article by Lisa Brossseau ScD she’s an infectious disease specialist from the University of Illinois. Watch her video, then tell me you feel the same way about cloth face masks. Go to : infectioncontroltoday.com
      My point is people wear these cloth masks, get a false sense of safety, don’t practice social distancing and are not washing their hands. They touch there face, eyes then cellphones because they falsely believe they are safe from covid and wd can tell by the mere fact the more masks worn, the more covid.
      I for one will not wear a mask because it doesn’t do anything to protect me, so why bother? Show me concrete evidence that it does, and I’ll wear it.
      Thank you.

  2. Covid 19 is also spread by touch and cases are climbing the more people wear masks. Why is that? Masks do little to stop particulates and infectious disease specialists state they do nothing to protect us from Covid yet more and more people are wearing them, more covid cases are spreading…..anyone see the alarming connection?
    Tuberculosis is the most infectious disease in the world, killing 1.5 million people in 2018, 205,000 of those were children. Did the world shut down? Did people wear masks ? No!
    If this wasn’t an election year in the United States would we have Covid 19? No!
    Mandatory mask policies are helping spread Covid 19 and as long as they are in place, Covid will hang around. The spread of Covid amongst children is very low and the risk of children spreading it to adults is also extremely low. Our children don’t need a mask mandate. Germany opened all their schools without a mask mandate and their children are doing just fine.
    Let’s make policy based on facts not fear. If the ones of us who choose to go without a mask want to shop, let us in. It’s our health we risk, not yours. If you are concerned, wear a mask. After all our politicians are telling us they will protect us, so you should have nothing to fear right? I will not live my life in fear. I will not tolerate politicians who are not infectious disease specialists telling me to wear a mask. Anything can kill us on any given day. I’m not going to worry about the what ifs and I’m going to enjoy life.

    1. I won’t take the time to discredit each of your false statements.

      You should inform yourself outside of Facebook posts and debunked documentaries (Plandemic).

      you’re correct that politicians and trade “advisors” should not be the ones that come up with health mandates and suggestions. Perhaps dig a little deeper into reputable sources and you can see that most of your statements are misleading and/or flat out false. you have the sum of human knowledge at your fingertips, and you are not taking advantage of it.

      1. Thank you for comments. I dont do Facebook. I inform myself thru the wealth of information on the web. Cloth masks do nothing , look it up.
        Watch the numerous videos by infectious disease specialists that are available on this subject. Watch the latest video on Breibart produced by real Frontline doctors . The information is there if you take the time to find it.

        1. There is plenty of information on the idea of a flat Earth as well. It doesn’t make it true.

          Vet your sources with more diligence.

        2. In addition, you first stated that masks were the cause of the rapid spread of Covid-19. Your reply then stated that masks do “nothing”. Both of your statements can’t be true, so which is it?

          do your “alternate facts” change with whatever false narrative you try to impose?

          1. I won’t get into a healthy discussion with someone who obviously has their mind closed to this whole issue. You are convinced that politicians know more about this mask issue then informed members of society.
            You also have your mind made up that I’m ignorant to this subject, so what’s the point in trying to share a valued point of view?
            That’s the point I was trying to make all along and you just proved it.

          2. Can you tell me why then are covid cases rising when more then half the country is wearing masks and or under lockdowns?
            Cuz if those masks are working then why is covid still spreading?
            How about states stop reporting covid cases and only report the mortality rates instead?
            Go to Breitbart and watch the video with the front line doctors that Twitter and Facebook took down. Then answer my question.