Local technical college WyoTech is canceling its graduation ceremonies scheduled for this month, but otherwise plans to forge ahead with a new term bringing 30-35 new students from all over the U.S. to Laramie on March 31.
Several local businesses and institutions have had to make adjustments or close facilities this week and many events were canceled as Albany County prepares for what seems like the probable arrival of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. This week saw the University of Wyoming move courses to the remainder of the spring semester online when classes resume March 30, urging all students living on campus to leave if possible; Laramie County Community College ceased all physical operations on its Albany County campus, and moved classes primarily to online formats when the semester resumes April 1; Albany County School District No. 1 school board tentatively voted to close schools until April.
WyoTech, however, intends to continue its programming, pointing to a small student population and large, open spaces in its facilities as reasons for a lower risk of spreading the virus, Director of Communications Jadeen Mathis said.
“We don’t have a big start in March, so it’s not that big of a deal, but the goal is to stagger registration and adhere to that minimum of 10 people in a group,” Mathis said. “That is the goal, but you never know — that could change tomorrow.”
Among other recommendations this week from the Trump administration, Americans were advised to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
Knowing that some of those students are coming from areas of the country with higher rates of infection than seen in Wyoming — as of press time Tuesday there were 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Cowboy State — Mathis said the college is trying to take precautions to avoid creating any risks to public health.
“We’re putting it out there, stressing to our students that are continuing on (after the current term ending March 24) if they can stay in Laramie to not go home,” Mathis said. “Usually they go home on down week, and we’re strongly encouraging them not to do so, because we feel like it is a lot safer here than going back home. Of course, you can’t control everyone, but we’re telling them, ‘If you feel sick, do not come to school.’ We don’t have a huge student population, so it’s easier to monitor.”
WyoTech has a long tradition of holding strict attendance policies. But in the light of the current situation, Mathis said the college will work with students who feel ill when they are supposed to be in class.
“Some people may take advantage of it, but we’re not playing around: If you’re sick, we don’t want you here,” Mathis said. “We’ll figure out how to make it up at a later time. This will probably be the only time in WyoTech’s history we do that. We do care about students’ health and employees’ health, and we just want to be cautious.”
Mathis told the Boomerang last week that WyoTech will likely cancel its classes if coronavirus shows up in Laramie.
IMH to reduce services
A day after implementing visitor restrictions, Ivinson Memorial Hospital will be taking further steps to prepare for a possible COVID-19 outbreak.
“To further protect our community against the spread of COVID-19 and ensure we can provide emergent care to patients in need, we are reducing our non-urgent services within the hospital,” spokeswoman Sagan Wheeler said. “Furthermore, we are making changes to our scheduling procedures in the clinic to protect against the spread of illness.”
In moves meant to ensure the safety of patients, staff, providers and the community, IMH on Tuesday announced reductions in the following service areas:
n Effective immediately, IMH will be reducing non-emergent outpatient services;
n IMH is suspending elective surgeries until further notice;
n Patients with upcoming appointments at Ivinson Medical Group will be contacted by their care team regarding next steps for care;
n Gift Shop operation hours were set at 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Go https://www.ivinsonhospital.org/vitals/covid-19 for more information about service areas at the hospital.
As of press time Tuesday, IMH had conducted a total of eight tests, received two negative results with six pending. Wheeler told the Boomerang on Tuesday that turnaround time for coronavirus tests is averaging four days.
UW closes facilities to public
Facilities at UW are being closed to general public access, though faculty, staff and students are still allowed in most buildings on campus, according to an email obtained by the Boomerang Tuesday.
Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center and Corbett Pool are closed to all access until further notice.
“All university events — including athletics competitions and practices, and all other organized gatherings — have been suspended until further notice,” the emails says.
Students living in the residence halls have been given until April 5 to remove their belongings. Residence halls will remain open for select students who have no alternative housing options. Washakie Dining Center is operating on a limited schedule for those students, with brunch daily from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and dinner daily from 4:30-6 p.m.
The Wyoming Union remains open for employees and students from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In the union, limited dining facilities remain open this week, but adjustments may be made after this week. All other campus dining facilities are closed.
Coe Library remains open, but visiting the library should be avoided “as much as possible to reduce personal interactions with the staff,” according to the email. UW Libraries has extended due dates for materials to May 18. Library materials can be returned at the external book drop located at 14th Street and Ivinson Avenue.
The American Heritage Center and the Centennial Complex are closed to public access and drop-in traffic, but people were encouraged to explore the AHC’s online catalog.
Eppson Center closing
The Eppson Center for Seniors announced Tuesday it will close its doors until April 1, at which time it will be evaluated whether further closure is necessary.
All activities, classes and congregate meals at the popular hub for older residents and others are canceled. The center is offering curbside pickup for hot meals for its regular meal patrons from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. daily during the shutdown period. Staff will be available to track numbers, accept donations and help with food pickup, according to a news release. The meals will follow the current menu, except Monday night dinners will not be offered. Monday’s meals will be served at lunchtime.
“Our home delivered meal program will be functioning as normal for those currently registered to receive meals,” Executive Director Tammy Comer said in an email.
Transportation service will be for essential rides only, and rides for dialysis will continue. The center’s Wellness Department homemakers will be working with patrons on a case-by-case basis and are being contacted by the department’s director.