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.
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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.
I am going to make my broken record imitation one more time.
The curve shown here is by report date. A better graphic is available from the Wyoming Department of Health, and is one made by date of onset of symptoms. It is an “epigraph” and tends to lessen the influence of the bureaucratic process of testing and reporting. I also would not use the 14 day or 21 day running means available from WDH as these averaging filters cause a phase distortion — i.e. they delay the apparent progress of the pandemic relative to its actual progress.
If the Sturgis rally had been responsible for the current uptick in cases, then one would probably expect cases to predominate along I-90, but they do not. Not in Wyoming nor in South Dakota. Laramie appears to be the Wyoming hot spot and the pertinent event is the University opening. This is a national phenomenon. About half of the uptick in South Dakota cases in late August were in counties that also had a college. I wrote here weeks ago that the UW reopening plan seemed not realistic enough, and this was true nationwide. We needed to get schools opened again, and we should have expected some increases in cases as a result.
If New York is any sort of analogue to how this plays out, they are stuck in a steady number of new cases, around 600-800, per day, and have been so since June 9. Since August 28 we have neen stuck around 30 cases per day with excursions above and below. The ratio of the two is just about equal to the ratio of total population.
I wonder if any of these could be secondary infections resulting from the Sturgis rally. The timing would be about right. It would be interesting to know but we probably will never be told or know the disease spread from that gathering.
The graph might be more instructive if the dates of bar opening and UW opning wee shown with a red vertical line.
Please read Sarah Pridgeon’s column in this week’s Sundance Times for her first-hand account of contracting the virus. It speaks eloquently to the necessity for all to wear masks.