The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming grew to 84 on Saturday morning as the Department of Health reported 11 new cases in seven counties, including the first cases in Converse and Sublette counties. Park County remains at one case.
Meanwhile, Teton County officials ordered those over the age of 65 and those who have high-risk medical conditions to stay in their homes in an effort to stop the spread of the illness.
The Health Department reported four new cases in Fremont County, two new cases in Teton County and one new case each in Converse, Johnson, Laramie, Sheridan, Sublette counties.
The Fremont County Incident Management Team, in its daily briefing, had predicted rapid growth in the number of cases in the county, noting that more than 400 county residents have been advised to self-isolate because of the virus.
“Based on the numbers we are seeing over the last week, the number of cases in Fremont County is growing at a rapid rate,” a statement from the team said.
However, Fremont County also joined Sheridan and Albany counties in reporting recoveries in two of its cases.
“On a more positive note, we are now considering potential discharges of some of the patients from this disease,” the statement said.
Statewide, the state Health Department is reporting 18 recoveries.
The number of cases on Saturday morning stood at 20 in Fremont County, 19 in Laramie County, 13 in Teton, eight in Natrona, six in Sheridan, five in Johnson and three in Carbon. Albany, Campbell, Converse, Goshen, Park, Sublette, Sweetwater and Washakie counties all reported one case.
The increase came after Wyoming officials on Friday extended for two weeks the public health orders closing some businesses and putting limits on gatherings.
Park County Public Health officer Dr. Aaron Billen commended people for going out less and said it was helping to keep confirmed cases down.
As of Thursday morning there have been 100 tests collected in Park County with one positive, 71 negative, and 28 pending.
At least 17 recoveries have also been reported.
Information on where those recoveries occurred was not available from the Health Department, however, Albany County health officials reported that the one coronavirus patient identified in the county had already recovered from the illness after self-isolation.
In Sheridan County, health officials reported all four of the people diagnosed with the illness have recovered.
Fremont and Laramie counties have 17 cases each and Teton now has 10.
State officials have advised Wyoming residents repeatedly that the number of cases in the state would increase as more coronavirus testing is completed. As of 5 p.m., more than 1,100 tests had been completed, 865 at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory and 239 by private commercial laboratories.
Billen said statewide positive cases are most frequently associated with contact with a known case, followed by domestic travel, an unknown source (possibly community transmission) and international travel. Equal numbers of those with underlying medical conditions and those without underlying medical conditions are diagnosed.
“The three top symptoms reported are cough, fever and body aches,” Billen said in a social media post. “Unfortunately, these are also symptoms of influenza, bronchitis and many colds. Keep up the social distancing.
“This is not going to be over in two weeks.”
Gov. Mark Gordon urged Wyoming residents to stay home if at all possible on Wednesday as the state’s coronavirus case count increased to 49.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said if residents comply with the restrictions put in place by the state over the last week, there is a better chance that further restrictions can be avoided in the future.
“We are not trying to shut down Wyoming,” he said. “But your voluntary action and discipline will make the difference on whether we can slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to emphasize the orders we put in place are only effective if you take them seriously.”
The state last week limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer and closed businesses likely to draw more than 10 customers, such as bars and fitness clubs. On Tuesday, businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, were ordered closed.
Gordon said the limits were important to protect Wyoming residents and people involved in the health care industry.
“We want to make sure that should this crisis come in greater detail … that we have adequate hospital facilities,” he said. “It’s not just coronavirus that we are worried about this. If our hospitals are filled and somebody breaks a leg, you will not be able to be taken to a hospital.”
• Childcare: Park County Library System director Frances Clymer said the Cody Library is discussing setting up a temporary daycare for children of hospital workers at the library if Cody Regional Health’s Seedlings Center daycare needed to close.
• No makeup time: The Department of Education has decided that students in public schools will not have to make up classroom time lost to school closures prior to April 3. Most of the state’s public schools were closed last week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
• Fraud warning: U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen warned Wyoming residents to be wary of fraud schemes that have their roots in the coronavirus illness. Klaassen said around the country, a variety of different scams have surfaced.
“It is unfortunate, but criminals often use times of adversity to their advantage,” Klaassen said. “They see moments where our attention is distracted or we are susceptible to emotional responses as an opportunity to commit brazen acts of fraud.”
• Scams seen around the country include: Companies and individuals selling fake testing kits, masks and treatments; “phishing” emails sent from entities posing as the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and malicious websites that appear to share coronavirus information but in fact, infect computers with malware.
• Remote education: Most of the state’s community colleges have decided to keep their campuses closed for the rest of the spring semester and provide education via computer.
Sheridan, Gillette and Casper colleges, along with Northwest College, Laramie County Community College and Western Wyoming Colleges, all announced they will offer classes online.
Eastern Wyoming College, where spring break ended Monday, will provide classes online or through “modified” means, according to the college’s website.
• More support: Gordon is among 21 Republican governors to send a letter to congressional leadership seeking additional funding for states in a $2 trillion stimulus package that was still being debated in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday morning.
The spending bill would provide $20 billion to the states to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.
“It’s a start,” Gordon said during his news briefing Monday. “I don’t believe that this will be repaired easily. I think the consequences are very long term and I do believe that we will be back with needs for more direct infusions to the state.”
• Hand sanitizer: Gordon directed the Wyoming Business Council to allocate funds to Wyoming distilleries and breweries to help them buy the supplies they need to manufacture hand sanitizer.
“This collaborative effort represents the Wyoming spirit we all know and love,” he said in a news release. “Folks banding together in challenging economic times to support public health and advance the greater good.”
Distilleries that have committed to making sanitizer include Single Track Distillery in Cody, Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne, Pine Bluffs Distilling, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby and the Jackson Hole Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson.
• Public restrooms: Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forest officials announced the forests’ public restrooms would be closed due to worries about spreading the coronavirus. Some guard stations and rental cabins will also be closed in the coming week.
(Zac Taylor and Leo Wolfson contributed to this report)