After a spike of 228 active cases on Monday, the county’s count has dropped to 194 active and probable cases of the coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. These are some of the highest rates for the virus identified since the height of the pandemic last winter.
Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin was recently released from a three-day hospitalization after getting COVID-19 himself two weeks ago.
“Boy, if that was COVID-light I’m glad I was vaccinated,” he said, “because if I wasn’t it probably would have been a lot worse.”
Billin said it has been difficult to track how many vaccinated people like himself have been infected and hospitalized because vaccination data is kept in a separate database, and the state is reluctant to release information due to patient confidentiality.
Billin said a “very predictable pattern has emerged” when it comes to monitoring the virus spread. He said there is a domino effect that occurs, first with a spike in the wastewater testing, followed by the number of active cases and then hospitalizations.
While the City of Cody decided to renew its wastewater testing contract, the City of Powell elected not to renew testing back in June.
“At that time cases were way down and it looked like we were really seeing a turn,” said Powell City Administrator Zack Thorington.
Thorington said although the city was not directly paying for the price of $200 per test, it was paying indirect costs through the staff time dedicated to performing the testing. He said the city would consider renewing this contract at the start of 2022.
“We’d love to have more data, but we’re using the data from Cody,” Billin said.
Billin also mentioned at Tuesday’s Park County Commissioner meeting the impact Cody Regional Hospital has been feeling lately and related the story of a patient he attempted to send from Powell Valley Healthcare to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings who was rejected and had to be sent to Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“I’ve never heard them utter those words in 20 years,” he said.
He said the wave of patients has been felt by everyone working at these facilities, even down to the housekeepers.
The uptick in cases and hospitalizations has also led to more deaths. There have been 42 officially reported deaths in the county due to the virus since the start of the pandemic. The county had been sitting at around 150 active cases for a couple weeks before Monday’s spike.
“This is the repeated spike due to the delta variant,” Billin said.
He said he and other county health officers believe the newer variant is causing those infected to become a little sicker for a little bit longer than some of the earlier strains of the virus.
Park County Public Health is hosting vaccination clinics at the county courthouse every Wednesday, typically receiving about 80 sign-ups but only around 50 actual participants, Park County Public Health Nurse Bill Crampton said.
“People still aren’t taking it very seriously,” he said.
His staff has also taken “billions” of phone calls regarding President Joe Biden’s administration’s desire to begin offering third, booster shots to the general public as early as this week. The Food and Drug Administration has not backed third shots at this point for the general public and the only people it is recommended for at this time are those receiving cancer treatments and those severely immunocompromised.
Crampton said there are doctors and companies issuing the third dose throughout the country without receiving the guidance to do so.
“There are indications that could be malpractice,” he said.
He said he anticipates giving out this third dose at some point in the near future. The first vaccines were administered locally in January and February, only around eight months ago.
“I personally think it’s a little early,” Crampton said. “Most vaccines are administered yearly. I’m not sure eight months is going to make that big of a difference.”
He said Public Health is planning on administering the flu vaccine and COVID-19 together at the same clinic so people can get both vaccines in one trip. Crampton said this will be critical as multiple shots must be received within the same 24-hour period, or there would be a 4-week waiting period.