Four members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who had been hospitalized for treatment of the coronavirus have died as result of complications from the disease, bringing to six the number of lives claimed by the illness in Wyoming.
The Northern Arapaho Business Council and Wyoming Department of Health both announced Tuesday that the four had died Monday.
“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that the Northern Arapaho Tribe confirms the deaths of four of our own who tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19,” said Lee Spoonhunter, co-chair of the Northern Arapaho Business Council. “The Northern Arapaho Business Council offers … heartfelt condolences to the families of the loved ones.”
The condolences were echoed by Gov. Mark Gordon, who noted the deaths occurred despite stringent measures taken by Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribal officials to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“These deaths highlight the insidious nature of the illness, as both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes took advanced protective measures early on, including through an aggressive testing strategy,” he said. “I want to commend each of the sovereign nations for taking those early steps for the safety of Wind River Reservation communities.”
Spoonhunter said that because of restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people, other tribal members will not be able to take part in traditional ceremonies.
“Because of the restrictions put in place, we cannot mourn together as a family or a tribe and give our people the traditional Arapaho protocols to have our people heal,” he said.
Spoonhunter also urged the younger members of the tribe to observe social distancing recommendations and to remain at home when possible to avoid exposing family members to coronavirus.
“Do not continue to be out in public places, possibly exposing yourself and our loved ones to this deadly disease,” he said. “We realize how difficult it is to be at home and away from our friends. But we sternly ask you to respect our community … by taking these precautionary measures.”
Spoonhunter’s plea was echoed by Fremont County commissioners, who issued a statement expressing condolences for the deaths.
“We must continue to be vigilant about following public health guidance and social distancing, particularly because this disease is so dangerous to those who are most vulnerable,” the statement said.
As of Wednesday morning, Wyoming’s coronavirus case count stood at 322, with five new cases detected Tuesday.
The Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, also said the number of people to recover from the coronavirus increased by 17 on Tuesday to total 254. The total is a mix of 184 laboratory-confirmed recoveries and 70 “probable” recoveries.
As of Wednesday morning, Laramie County had 76 cases; Teton County had 62; Fremont County had 51; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 14; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson County had 11; Sweetwater had 10; Converse had nine; Albany, Lincoln and Uinta had six; Washakie had five; Carbon and Crook had four, and Goshen had three. Big Horn, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette all had one case.
Platte and Weston counties remained free of any confirmed cases.
In other developments:
Closure exceptions: Johnson County’s health officer granted exceptions to three companies to allow them to operate despite the statewide health orders. The companies were a hair salon and a nail salon in Kaycee and the Buffalo Athletic Club. “Let’s try a few small experiments and see if we have an outbreak,” said Dr. Mark Schueler, the county’s health officer.
Weston County’s health officer last week announced he had issued exceptions for several gatherings two business — one a massage business that provides medical services and the other a beauty salon with tanning beds. Dr. Mike Jording said tanning bed use was allowed for essential workers who use tanning sessions to treat psoriasis and depression.”
Park hiring: Yellowstone and Grand Teton national park officials plan to hire far fewer seasonal workers for the summer season than usual because of coronavirus. Both parks are trying to limit staff members in park housing to one per bedroom and bathroom, a restriction designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said that will mean a reduction of up to 60% in his seasonal staff while Grand Teton officials said they could be looking at a reduction of staff of 40%.
Crime down: Law enforcement officials in Albany County and Laramie are reporting a drop in the calls they respond to since the onset of the coronavirus. Albany County Sheriff’s Department arrest logs show that the number of arrests per day has fallen to an average of 1.1, compared to 3.5 before bars and restaurants were closed by the statewide health orders. However, Laramie Police Lt. Gwen Smith said calls regarding “suspicious activity” and domestic disturbances have increased.
Donations: A Sheridan charity has raised more than $253,000 to help families pay for necessities such as food, gas, rent and utilities. The Sheridan Area Employee Relief Fund has received donations ranging from $10 to $50,000 from 149 individuals, businesses and foundations. As of Monday, $61,500 had been disbursed to 246 individuals.
Printing masks: A Rock Springs man has joined the army of private citizens armed with 3D printers making masks and face shields for medical personnel. Zack Pendleton has created 100 face shields for donation to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County using his own 3D printers. “These are better than some we have gotten from manufacturing companies,” said Angel Bennett, materials management director for the hospital.
Cookie delivery: Workers at Campbell County Hospital received a very special delivery earlier this week: 600 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. The cookies were donated by the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming. The delivery was part of a project to deliver more than 8,000 boxes of cookies 13 hospitals across Wyoming and Montana.