There were no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, commonly called COVID-19, in Albany County as of Monday afternoon, but closures and restrictions continued to go into place at businesses and institutions in response to what appears to be a worsening situation nationwide.
Ivinson Memorial Hospital had so far performed five tests for COVID-19 in Albany County, said Lisa Rambo, infection prevention and control nurse. There was no word Monday at press time how many were pending.
In starting to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the White House, IMH on Monday moved to put further restrictions on visitors to the hospital in anticipation of COVID-19’s probable arrival in Albany County.
n Any patient checking in with a fever, cough or shortness of breath -- the signs of COVID-19 -- should ask hospital staff for a mask upon arrival.
n People with cold or flu symptoms are not allowed to visit.
n Each patient is only allowed one visitor in a 24 hour period.
n Large groups are being asked not to gather in any part of the hospital.
n Children under the age of 16 are not allowed at the hospital unless they are seeking care.
n Visitation hours are limited to 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
“There are no confirmed cases in Albany County, but if we can prevent that and make it a slower wave of infections -- because it likely will hit our community -- following those guidelines and not making it a big influx by having some social distance should slow the spread down,” Rambo said.
IMH is operating a triage phone line from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday with registered nurses that individuals can call if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, including a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, shortness of breath or cough. Individuals should call the triage line at 307-755-4750 to determine the best course of action. Only those with extreme shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing up blood should seek emergency care or call 911.
In addition to visitor restrictions, IMH will be limiting points of entry at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Public entrances will be restricted to the east entrance, parking garage and the emergency department.
Outpatient entrances including, Dialysis, Cancer Center and Rehab will be restricted to patients with appointments only, and will be accessed by ringing a doorbell.
Gov. Mark Gordon declared a state of emergency Friday. A second case was confirmed in Lander later that day, with a third case in Sheridan County on Saturday. The third case appears to be linked to the first confirmed case where a woman in Sheridan County became infected with the virus had traveled domestically. The Lander case involves an older male living in a retirement community who had not recently traveled, suggesting he was exposed to the virus by someone in the community.
In response to continued developments and foreseeing challenges on the horizon, Gordon announced the mobilization of five task forces on Monday aimed at addressing an outbreak.
Gordon will head a health task force while Secretary of State Ed Buchanan will head the task force focused on state services and operations; Auditor Kristi Racines will lead the task force focused on business and the financial sector; Treasurer Curt Meier will lead the transportation and infrastructure task force; and Superintendent Jillian Balow will lead the education task force.
“I would like to point out that COVID-19 did not arrive in the mail over the weekend,” Gordon said during a press conference Monday. “We have been working carefully and solidly over many months as this threat has been emerging and come up with a thoughtful and appropriate response. At this time, it’s important to remember Wyoming has always been a resilient and strong community. We look out after our neighbors. We think about our actions and exercise common sense. Wyoming, I know we’re better than this.”
Gordon said he does expect Wyoming to experience significant economic effects because of COVID-19.
Wyoming officials are continuing to recommend canceling or postponing events with more than 50 people and advising older residents and those with underlying health issues to avoid crowds or situations that involve close contact with others. Nonessential air travel is also not recommended.
The Trump administration on Monday also ramped up its guidelines for slowing the spread, including closing schools, avoiding groups of more than 10 people, discretionary travel, bars, restaurants and food courts.
The Wyoming Department of Health is continuing to prioritize the following recommendations for avoiding the spread of COVID-19:
n Avoid close contact with sick people.
n While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
n Stay home if sick.
n Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
n Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
n Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Rec Center closed, basketball tournament canceled
The city of Laramie announced Monday it would close the Laramie Recreation Center and the Ice and Events Center based on guidance from state officials and the CDC. All events are suspended or canceled.
Additionally, the Youth Basketball Tournament scheduled for April 3-5 was canceled in trying to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“The tournament has a long-standing history in our community, and we are disappointed to have to cancel,”Recreation Manager Jodi Guerin said in a news release. “However, the nature of the tournament is that it draws approximately 100 teams from the region and attracts thousands of individuals. That clearly exceeds the potential threshold for large crowds and increases the likelihood that the virus could spread.”
Refunds will begin to be processed next week for participants of the Youth Basketball Tournament. The event is expected to resume again in 2021.
The Albany County Public Library closed to the public at 7 p.m. on Monday, including its branches in Centennial and Rock River.
All programs, events and activities are canceled until the library reopens at a yet to be determined date. The library will be returning voicemail messages, answering email and responding to Facebook messages during the closure, according to a news release.
Patrons are encouraged to not return books and other checked out items during the closure. Items can be returned to outside book or media drops at the Laramie branch. The library is asking that board games not be returned to those drop points. Fines on overdue material have been waived and automatic renewals will continue.
Census info for college students
The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday it would be adjusting operations to make sure college students are counted in the 2020 Census.
College students living in on-campus housing are counted through their university, which counts all students living in university-owned housing.
Universities that have temporarily closed because of COVID-19 will still be counted as part of this process, according to a news release. Even if students are home on Census Day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria that states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time.
“Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, students living away from home at school should be counted at school in most cases, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release states.
Hilton offering grocery assistance
The Hilton Garden Inn announced on Monday it would be offering their services to support any older person who needs assistance picking up groceries between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. through Friday. Those needing assistance should call 307-745-5500.