The Albany County Courthouse will be close to the public until further notice amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, commonly called COVID-19, across Wyoming and the nation.
The circuit and district courts will continue operating and county employees will come to work to continue providing services, but the public will have to conduct county business online or by phone. Other county buildings will remain open with the exception of the county annex building. However, the public defenders office within the annex will remain open. Go to the Albany County website at http://www.co.albany.wy.us/.
An order from the Wyoming Supreme Court issued Wednesday calls on district and circuit courts to suspend in-person proceedings, except in circumstances where required by law and the constitution. Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said Wednesday local courts have been moving in that direction and that “those practices are already put in place.”
The County Commission will meet Friday to ratify the actions taken Wednesday and take further action based on what occurs leading up to the meeting.
“It changes so fast,” Commissioner Heber Richardson said . “If the state health officer issues a directive, then all of a sudden what we do changes right then, as fast as we can implement it.”
The county announced on Wednesday morning the formation of a COVID-19 task force to provide guidance to officials as the situation develops, and its first directive for the commission was to close the courthouse. Emergency Management Coordinator Aimee Binning told commissioners Wednesday afternoon that the task force had not made a recommendation at this stage whether county employees should work from home, instead leaving it up to department heads and elected officials.
However, if an employee has recently traveled to an area with high COVID-19 activity, that person needs to self-quarantine for 14 days, said Dr. Jean Allias, Albany County Public Health Officer.
The move comes as the cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Wyoming, with five identified in neighboring Laramie County just since Tuesday afternoon. The total number of cases at press time Wednesday was 18, with the Wyoming Department of Health reporting it had performed 181 tests at its labs as of that morning.
Richardson said now is a time for planning for what seems like the inevitable spread to some degree of COVID-19 in Albany County.
“It’s not a question of if, but when and how severe,” he said. “We don’t want to overwhelm medical infrastructure and services. The point is everybody needs to not circulate themselves very much and wash their hands a lot, stay home if they can and work from home so we don’t overrun the hospital with people that need help.”
“The number one thing we have to flatten the curve is social distancing to help not overwhelm our health care system,” Allias added.
Ivinson Memorial Hospital had performed eight tests, with six results pending as of Wednesday.
Doug Faus, CEO at Ivinson Memorial Hospital, said even without positive tests, the thought process at the hospital is to assume there are undetected cases of COVID-19 in Albany County and act accordingly by avoiding public places and social contact.
“Whether we know for sure it’s here or not, I think it makes sense to run our lives as if it is here,” Faus said.
The community has an opportunity, Faus said, to follow the recommendations and mitigate a worst-case scenario.
“The two scenarios we could see if one, we choose to follow these recommendations and mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19, or, two, be dismissive to the recommendations and likely contribute to a rapid spread of this virus result in vastly different outcomes,” Faus wrote in an email. “Our hospital is already experiencing the impact of reduced supplies, and if the virus does expand, our resources could be overwhelmed. In networking with colleagues throughout the nation, this shortage is being experienced throughout. It is important for our community to remember that a person may be without symptoms or just have minor symptoms yet still be shedding the virus. That is why the social isolation is necessary.”
Gov. Mark Gordon on Wednesday issued a statement in support of further guidelines coming this week from the Trump administration.
“We should use good judgment, avoid unnecessary travel, keep social gatherings to groups of fewer than 10 people, and use drive-through, pickup or delivery options from our local restaurants,” Gordon said in a statement. “These are going to be perhaps the toughest times any of us will see in our lifetimes. Although absolutely necessary, I recognize the toll these measures will take on those most dependent on a working wage.”
The Albany County Sheriff’s Office also announced the suspension of certain services until further notice.
Effective immediately the following services are limited:
n Finger printing services
n Inmate visitation at the Albany County Detention Center
n All inmate group meetings at the Albany County Detention Center
n Concealed firearms applications and renewals.
Additoinally, VIN inspections will be conducted without face to face contact. Those needing a VIN inspection are asked to call the sheriff’s office at 307-755-3520 for information. The sheriff’s office is asking people not to come to the courthouse for a VIN inspection. Hours for VIN inspection are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon on Friday. The Laramie Police Department can also perform VIN inspections from noon-4 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday by calling 307-721-2526.
The Laramie Police Department is continuing all operations as normal, Lt. Gwen Smith told the Boomerang Wednesday.