WEB ONLY Stitches

Stitches Acute Care Center has seen the first positive result in Laramie for the novel coronavirus, commonly called COVID-19, according to a Facebook post from the urgent care clinic early Wednesday afternoon.

The post indicated the clinic had reported the positive result to the Wyoming Department of Health, and it was later added to the agency’s website that includes a breakdown of cases by county.

Albany County Emergency Management Coordinator Aimee Binning said the patient has already recovered and has had no contact with the public since first developing symptoms and being tested. The patient, a male, is not on quarantine.

Binning said that there’s no indication that the patient contracted COVID-19 through community spread within Albany County.

“This person likely contracted it from outside the community,” she said.

Albany County Public Health Officer Jean Allais talked with the individual and followed up with others who were in contact with the person prior to the time he showed symptoms, according to a news release late Wednesday.

The statewide count sat at 44 Wednesday afternoon, according to the Department of Health website. Those positive cases include three in Carbon County, Albany County’s neighbor to the west, and 11 in Laramie County, its neighbor to the east. The highest number of cases is 13 in Fremont County, where some of the early positive results were reported.

As of Wednesday morning, Ivinson Memorial Hospital had performed 18 tests with 13 negative results and five tests pending.

Gov. Mark Gordon on Wednesday said Wyomingites “must be honest about the enormity of this challenge” if the state is to avoid a greater degree of community spread that could put health care providers in jeopardy.

“Our efforts have been designed to make sure that we do our best to flatten the curve,” Gordon said during a press conference. “It’s absolutely imperative we flatten the curve, because by doing so we will not overwhelm our health care services. Let me repeat: It’s absolutely essential we flatten the curve by staying home, making sure we do social distancing and practice good hygiene. Because we want to make sure that should this crisis come in greater detail, we’ve seen it increase over the last few days, that we have adequate hospital facilities. And it’s not just for COVID virus that we’re worried about this. If hospitals are filled and someone has a stroke or breaks a leg, you will not be able to be taken into a hospital. So it is essential we flatten the curve by staying home.”

There were three orders from the governor’s office as of Wednesday, closing most public places, limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people and the latest closing specific establishments such as nail and hair salons and tattoo parlors. Those measures, Gordon said, will only be effective if people abide by them, helping the state to avoid more draconian measures, including a “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order.

“We’re trying to avoid that order because of the complexity that it involves, but if we have to, we have means to enforce it through law enforcement or others,” the governor said.

Between the time the press conference started at 1 p.m. and its conclusion just more than an hour later, the total number of cases increased by three, which included the Albany County case.

Department of Health Director Mike Ceballos said Wyoming, as is the case nationally, will continue prioritizing patients for testing as long as supplies are limited. Gordon said it’s important to remember there are more positive cases in communities that have not been confirmed by testing.

“We will see more of these tests coming in positive,” Gordon said. “What should be on every Wyoming citizen’s mind is that we started only about a week and a half ago with one confirmed case, and now we’re at 41. So be thinking about what this means for people in Wyoming.”

WyoTech to delay start

With growing concern about the spread of COVID-19, WyoTech is adjusting its plans for the coming weeks.

Students completing the most recent term took their online final Monday and Tuesday last week after the technical school released its students the prior Friday. With 30-35 students expected to come to campus to start a new term on March 31, WyoTech decided to push the start date back to April 6.

But spokeswoman Jadeen Mathis said as with K-12 schools in Albany County now planning on delayed starts, the decision on whether to move forward will come down to the circumstances when the date gets closer.

“We’re waiting to make a decision,” Mathis said.

Online courses just aren’t an option for WyoTech because of the high level of hands-on training that’s part of the programming, Mathis said.

“That would be a disservice to our other customers, our employers, to try and bypass any of the hands-on portion of what we do,” she said. “We believe in what we do and how we do it, so online is not an option for us.”

Even if WyoTech must close its doors for an extended period of time, Mathis remains confident the school will persevere through the crisis.

“WyoTech has been through some really difficult times, and they’ve always pulled through,” she said. “We are confident we are going to pull through this. We have a great team of passionate people that are committed to seeing this through. We’ll come out on top.”

City suspends service disconnections; limits recreation

In response to growing economic instability for many locals, the city of Laramie Municipal Billing Department suspended service disconnections for utility customers to support the community in bearing the impacts of COVID-19.

“City management determined that suspending service disconnections was the right thing to do,” City Manager Janine Jordan said in an email. “In light of the pandemic, the last thing our residents need is any additional stress related to a potential disconnection of water, sewer and trash services due to a lack of payment.”

Customers were encouraged to communicate with the Municipal Services Billing Office by emailing MunicipalServicesBilling@cityoflaramie.org, or by calling 307-721-5222 or 307-721-5324, to plan for payments on past due service accounts,” a Tuesday news release states.

In early April, past due account holders will receive an account status report by mail including the status of their account or accounts and payment arrangements, along with instructions on how to make payments on-line and by telephone. City staff will arrange payment plans to help past due accounts holders.

“Delinquent accounts that are never paid can drive up the cost of doing business in our utility systems water and sewer systems,” Jordan wrote. “City staff work routinely with residents having financial difficulties to bring their account current overtime through payment plans.”

To pay online, account holders can use a one-time payment option or set up an online recurring account at www.cityoflaramie.org/c2g. Payment by telephone can be made by calling 1-855-276-8970.

In terms of the city’s overall financial outlook, Jordan said the city is expecting steep reductions in sales take receipts it depends on to provide services. As such, measures had been taken to continue essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Earlier this week, I suspended all spending not needed immediately to continue providing essential services,” Jordan said Wednesday. “The fate of municipal government is directly tied to the health of our business community.”

On Wednesday, the city announced that, in conjunction with advice from the Albany County Public Health Officer, it would be closing all fenced-in recreational areas effective immediately.

“This closure is designed to prevent groups from gathering in enclosed spaces to limit the spread of COVID-19,” a Wednesday news release says. “This closure will stay in effect until further notice. The safety of the community is our priority as we all work together to reduce the curve.”

Fenced-in areas that are closed include the Optimist Dog Park, Aragon Dog Park, LaBonte Softball Fields, Aragon Softball Fields, Little League Sports Complex, Cowboy Field and any other fenced-in city parks and recreation areas.

IMH seeking protective supplies

With a growing need for PPE, or personal protective equipment, for health care workers, Ivinson Memorial Hospital is seeking donations from the community.

“We have received an outpouring of support from our community in response to COVID-19,” Sagan Wheeler, marketing and physician recruitment manager, said in an email. “Our materials team has been diligent in their efforts to procure additional PPE, our staff have been committed to conservation efforts and we have received many generous donations from community members. We are optimistic we will be able to protect our patients and our employees now, and into the future.”

IMH is prioritizing the follow supplies:

n Disposable surgical masks

n N95 masks

n Face shields

n Disposable gowns

n Non-latex gloves

Donated supplies should be unused and unopened. While IMH will accept any type of mask donation, the hospital is not actively seeking fabric mask donations at this time.

“We continue to prioritize health care grade supplies,” Wheeler said.

Donations can be dropped off in IMH’s East Patient Entrance from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday. For questions about supply donations, please email questions@ivinsonhospital.org or call 307-755-4606.

“We are incredibly grateful for our community and the generosity they have shown, both in donating healthcare grade supplies and homemade masks,” Wheeler said.

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