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.
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.