Cody Regional Health reported this week a second employee recently tested positive and multiple Cody businesses closed temporarily after reporting positive COVID-19 cases. New cases rose again this week after a steep drop.
Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin said Wednesday morning in an update there have been five new confirmed cases of the virus this week in the county – up to 10 total cases related to the recent exposure at a political meet and greet event – bumping the number of active Cody cases to 18. Only one Park County resident is hospitalized for the virus in Billings.
Tuesday, Yellowstone National Park announced two concessionaire employees tested positive, as well as three tourists who had recently been in the Park. Officials said the tourists likely contracted the virus prior to entering the Park.
After the staff members tested positive, nearly 40 people were tested with assistance from Park County health officials and all tests returned negative. As a precaution, about 10 additional health officials and first responders were also tested with negative results.
There have been 108 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Park County since the start of the pandemic – including eight temporary residents – and 14 probable cases. Of the total, 97 cases have recovered and 25 are active.
Tuesday, a Uinta County man had become the 26th Wyoming resident to die as a result of the illness.
The Wyoming Department of Health said the man, who was being treated at an out-of-state hospital, had underlying health issues that would put patients at a higher risk of complications from the illness.
Cody Regional Health had a second employee test positive for COVID-19 last week, a spokesperson announced Monday, but there is no sign the virus was passed to a patient.
Millstone Pizza and Brewery announced Tuesday it was closing for 48 hours due to a part-time employee testing positive.
“Please know this decision to temporarily close the Cody location was completely voluntary,” reads in part a statement released by Millstone management. “As a precautionary measure we will take the next 48 hours to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. We will require all staff members to test, clean and sanitize the location thoroughly, so we can get back to business promptly.”
Basin Vision Center also announced it had closed Monday-Tuesday after an employee tested positive. All other employees tested negative.
In March, a hospital employee was Park County’s first confirmed case. That employee was isolated. CRH cannot release specific department information due to patient privacy HIPAA regulations.
“Do we come into contact more frequently with individuals who could be COVID positive?” said Andrea McKay, chief ambulatory officer. “Absolutely we do, and we are proud that we have been able to keep our rates so low. We are here to provide health care and it is the nature of our jobs.
“However, the preventive measures that we put into place actually help lower our risk.”
The hospital put in place many measures early on in the outbreak, including establishing a viral screening unit, screening visitors and restricting entry.
“There’s no doubt health care workers are at increased risk than the general community,” said Laura Farnworth, employee health nurse and safety officer. “We’ve had a very low incidence of positive disease in our workforce. And we try to keep it that way. We put a lot of effort into keeping it that way.”
Farnworth said the hospital investigates how its employees became sick with COVID-19. They discovered employees could contract it in “community” settings at work, such as break rooms, and not typically in exam rooms or other clinical settings.
The hospital continues to work with employees to remind them about safety policies such as masks and social distancing.
“Helping departments create safe work spaces that provide these safety procedures is very important.”
CRH works with the county health department to track confirmed cases. It also works with its internal call center to help provide follow-up communication with employees who may have been exposed.
“We have to go through a whole process and make appropriate decisions, that might be quarantine versus active monitoring, etc.,” she said.
The public health department has a group of nurses focused on contact tracing, which is initiated as soon as possible after positive COVID-19 test results are available, public health officer Dr. Aaron Billin said Sunday.
The CRH Incident Command Team follows CDC guidelines for when health care workers should return to work. Low risk exposures include those who were in contact with a person with COVID-19 but do not meet criteria for high-risk exposure such as brief interactions with COVID-19 patients in the hospital or in the community, while wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing. These individuals will be monitored.
Health care workers who had a low-risk exposure may continue to work during the 14 days after their last exposure to a COVID-19 patient. While working, health care staff should perform self-monitoring twice a day and wear a face mask at all times in the facility to avoid potential risk of asymptomatic transmission.
If testing is negative and symptoms are improving or resolved, staff may return to work while observing standard precautions, using a face mask and continuing to self-monitor for the remainder of the 14 days.
Any health care workers who test positive for COVID-19, either in the course of monitoring after an exposure or otherwise, will be immediately restricted from work and public health notified for further case management.
Dr. Elise Lowe, hospitalist at CRH, said it’s safe to get medical care because avoiding care could lead to bigger problems.
“We’ve done a great job of communicating how serious COVID is,” Lowe said. “But our hope is to remind the public that we are safe, hospitals, (doctors’) offices are safe for people to receive care.”
CRH has policies on masking, hand hygiene and cleaning, and staff do regular symptom screening of everyone entering their facilities.
For more information about COVID-19, call (307) 527-2000 or visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.