The results are in from a test that tracks COVID-19 presence in local communities, and the City of Cody has come back negative for the virus.

That was the report made by Park County Public Health officer Dr. Aaron Billin Monday morning, in analysis of sewage samples taken April 28 at the city’s wastewater treatment center that came back Sunday.

“This suggests that we have been very successful in our local public health efforts,” Billin said. “This is encouraging as we work toward recovery.”

That piece of news was tempered later the same day when Billin announced a case of COVID-19 had been discovered in Powell. The sewage test had only included Cody in its analysis.

Two more samples will be taken in May to establish a baseline reading before the influx of tourists comes to Cody this summer. Tests will be continued throughout the summer, although the cost to run them will drastically increase at the start of June. The tests are sent to BioBot Analytics, a wastewater epidemiology company based in Somerville, Mass.

The first test was taken manually, but future tests will be performed via a Teledyne ISCO 6712C Compact Portable Sampler, a 5-gallon, bucket-like device that takes readings from untreated wastewater funneling down from Cody’s toilets. The device cost $9,544, whcih will later be reimbursed.

Although the City of Cody is paying testing costs up-front, Park County Public Health is considered owner of the test results, and will reimburse the city for the expense.

Public health is paying for the program through $100,000 dispersed to the county from the Wyoming Department of Health, and through federal funds provided in the CARES Act.

Heightened risks?

With Yellowstone’s opening on Monday, an increase in visitors will occur in Cody and surrounding communities.

Although Wyoming has been relatively low for cases with 583, certain regions of the country have taken an enormous hit.

Neighboring Colorado has reported 22,482 cases. The number isn’t just a reflection of a larger population. It’s about 38 times more cases than Wyoming, yet Colorado’s population is only 9.95 times larger.

The Powell case involves a woman who almost certainly contracted the virus while visiting an infected family member in Utah. That state has had 7,518 cases.

Billin said Park County is also working on a plan to randomly test staff from Cody businesses who have frequent contact with visitors.

“Unprecedented circumstances have forced Park County into a ‘new normal,’ but Park County answered in unity,” said Kindy Krei, spokesperson for the Park County COVID-19 incident management team, in a recent press release.

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