Several cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among residents and staff of a long-term care facility in Washakie County over the last few days, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Officials have so far identified five cases among staff members and four among residents of Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. Lab testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory confirmed most of the known cases, with more results pending.
The department also announced two people who had died from COVID-19 in Colorado were being counted on the state total as Wyoming residents, bringing the state death toll to 10.
An older woman from Carbon County who had existing conditions that put her at higher risk of serious illness related to the virus died in late April. An older man from Laramie County also died in late March, but it is unclear whether he had higher risk-related conditions.
While the concern involving the Worland facility began after testing of staff members who were ill and sought medical care, it is unclear at this time how the virus was introduced among the staff and residents, or how many of the newly confirmed cases are experiencing symptoms.
The response so far has included attempted sample collection from all employees and residents with the help of facility staff. Follow up activities will likely include a visit to the facility from WDH staff for consultation and situation review, staff and patient interviews and more testing.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, emphasized the protection of older Wyoming residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers has been the department’s top concern and priority throughout the pandemic.
“We know the residents of these places are among the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and we have seen terrible situations occur in other nursing homes across the country,” she said. “We also recognize that the nature of long-term care facilities can make it very challenging to control the spread of the virus once it’s been introduced into a specific location.”
Current nursing home guidelines strictly limit visitors or non-essential healthcare personnel. “We believe this policy has been helpful in Wyoming over the last couple of months, but, the risk of potential exposure through staff and patients still exists,” Harrist said.
COVID-19 can be transmitted by infected people who don’t yet have symptoms. Disease symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after virus exposure and include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.
Harrist said this situation should serve as reminder that everyone should still take precautions to avoid becoming ill with the virus or passing it along to others. “Unfortunately, this virus is still among us,” she said.
As of Monday, Fremont County had 203 cases; Laramie County had 119; Teton County had 69; Natrona County had 49; Campbell and Sweetwater counties had 16; Converse had 14; Washakie had 13; Sheridan and Johnson had 12; Lincoln had 11; Albany had 10; Uinta had eight; Carbon had seven; Crook had five; Goshen and Hot Springs had four, and Big Horn had two. Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties had one case each.
The number of recoveries seen since coronavirus was first detected in Wyoming in March stood at 504 as of Monday, 367 among patients with confirmed cases and 137 among those with probable cases.
A probable case is defined as one where the patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, but has not been tested for the illness. As of Monday, the Health Department said there were 189 cases.
The Health Department’s figures indicate there are 254 active cases of coronavirus around the state — 210 among those with confirmed cases and 52 among those with probable cases.
The number of active cases is determined by adding the confirmed and probable cases — 766 — subtracting the total number of recoveries and subtracting the number of deaths.