Wyoming extended its health orders again this week as new confirmed cases hit a startling single-day record and officials reported seven COVID-19-related deaths.
The Wyoming Department of Health announced 104 new lab-confirmed cases Wednesday, a number far above the state’s previous single-day record of 67, which was set Aug. 14. The record day was followed Thursday by 70 new lab-confirmed cases.
On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Gordon announced the state extended its public health orders through Sept. 30, with one change that now permits indoor close-contact sports.
The state is keeping a close eye on potential fallout from the Labor Day holiday and the reopening of schools, Gordon said. School protocols have so far proven successful, he said in a Tuesday release, with no school yet to close due to an outbreak.
“Wyoming has really held its own,” Gordon said, “schools are open and sports are being played on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Still, recent infection clusters across the state are disrupting daily life for students and other Wyomingites. A positive case at Wilson Elementary School triggered the quarantine of an entire second-grade class, the Wyoming News Exchange reports. Roughly 100 junior high students in Cheyenne were told to stay home after a staff member at the school tested positive, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. And 18 student athletes at Casper College have tested positive for the virus, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
The Casper College cases are part of a spate of new infections in Natrona County that have officials there worried, the Star-Tribune reports. At least 65 new cases have been reported since Sept. 1 — more than the total reported the entire month of August.
And support for masks is not universal. A group of about 30 protesters gathered at the Capitol in Cheyenne on Thursday to demonstrate against school districts’ reopening plans and their mask protocols, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.
All told, Wyoming’s lab-confirmed caseload reached 3,936 by Friday morning with 377 added this week. That’s 152 more new cases than were added the previous week. Total recoveries reached 3,394. The number grew by 365, 125 more than the previous week.
The state’s 14-day-average percentage of total tests to come back positive increased to 2.1% by Tuesday, up from 1.6% last week. Hospitalizations increased to 16 from 12 last week, but hospital capacity remains ample.
Known active cases of the disease — the number of people officials believe are fighting infections but haven’t yet recovered — rose to 603 by Friday morning, according to Wyoming Department of Health numbers. That’s an increase of 105 from last Friday.
The state’s death count reached 49 with the addition of seven COVID-19-related fatalities. These included two Natrona County residents, three Sheridan County residents, one Goshen County man and one Park County man. All were older adults, according to the DOH.
Wyoming women report mounting challenges to self-sufficiency in the time of COVID-19, according to a survey conducted by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center in collaboration with the Wyoming Community Foundation and the Wyoming Women’s Foundation.
Layoffs, school closures, food insecurity and childcare are some of the factors straining many of the state’s women, according to the WWF. While 70% of mothers with children under 18 are in the labor force, women are 10 times more likely than others to stay home with sick kids and tend to work in low-wage jobs that lack paid leave, according to the organization.
The University of Wyoming eased back into its phased reopening plan after a nearly two-week pause that the school said helped stem an outbreak among students and staff. With the resumption, it returned to some in-person instruction for the first time since last spring.
Testing and surveillance continues at the school, and President Ed Seidel said it’s paramount that the university community remains strict in its precautions.
“For us to avoid another pause and proceed to the next phase … everyone — on campus or off — must adhere to those measures and avoid large off-campus gatherings where distancing and/or face protection are not employed,” he said in a release. Off-campus gatherings (college parties) were identified as contributing to the infections that triggered the pause.
As of Thursday, the university reported 96 active cases and 96 recovered cases. It has conducted more than 20,000 tests.
Seidel also offered a bit of promising news to sports fans Thursday when he announced university officials will look into resuming much-loved fall athletics.
“We’re not able to announce anything right now, but be assured that we’re doing everything we can to make it happen,” Seidel said in a statement.