NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, Sept. 18, 2020


McCormick student tests positive for COVID-19

CHEYENNE (WNE) – A few days after a staff member at Cheyenne’s McCormick Junior High tested positive for COVID-19, a student from the school has also contracted the novel coronavirus, according to district officials.

Laramie County School District 1 announced the positive case – the first reported among any of its more than 14,000 students since the school year began Aug. 31 – in an email Thursday morning.

The positive case comes after roughly 100 McCormick students were told to stay home earlier this week due to possible close contact with the staff member who tested positive.

LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown said the student who tested positive was among those who had already been quarantined.

“The Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department is going through that contact tracing right now, and we believe there’ll be probably about 11 other students who may be quarantined (due to the positive case),” Brown said Thursday.

District officials were unsure if the student contracted COVID-19 from the staff member or if it came from another source, Brown said.

Meanwhile, the other roughly 100 students who are quarantining for 14 days will likely get tested within the next week.

“We are recommending that they wait until Sept. 21 or 22 to get tested, because by that time, any exposure will have built in their system, so then we’ll have a better test,” said Kathy Emmons, executive director of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department.

McCormick remains the only LCSD1 school to report any positive cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday.

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UW faced with $42.3 million budget reduction from state

LARAMIE (WNE) –  The University of Wyoming will see a budget reduction of $42.3 million worth of grant money from the state, a 10% cut, over the next two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, biennium budget committee chair and trustee John McKinley said at Thursday morning’s UW Board of Trustees meeting.

A subsequent budget reduction plan will be created by UW president Ed Seidel and a budget reduction working group in the coming months. It must be presented for final approval within 45 days.

The university’s current state budget was approved in late May prior to knowledge that funding would be slashed. The initial level of state funding for UW’s current biennial budget is set at just under $445.5 million. With a 10% reduction, that number would be cut to a little over $403 million in state funding.

“We have been preparing for this process since the summer, and we’ll now take the steps to develop a specific plan that achieves the necessary reductions while building a best-in-class 21st century land-grant university true to its Wyoming roots,” Seidel said in a statement. “We’re working to help lay the foundation for the new economy of the state.”

During the same board meeting, Seidel discussed a change in protocol to the school’s pause plan, which was enacted for the first time Sept. 2. The pause, which was written into the schools COVID contingency plan, was put into place following five or more symptomatic tests results among students or staff in a given day. The pause lasted through Monday.

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Uinta County Commissioners pass symbolic resolution against health orders

EVANSTON (WNE) — The Uinta County Commission passed a resolution this week aimed at government overreach concerning health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The resolution, which is non-binding and appears to be symbolic in nature, was unanimously approved.

In summary, the resolution states the county commission is abiding by the Wyoming Constitution, which says each competent adult has the right to make his or her own healthcare decisions and decisions for those they legally represent as caregiver.

It also refers to Wyoming Constitution Article 1 in the Declaration of Rights: “the state of Wyoming shall act to preserve those rights from undue governmental infringement.”

According to the resolution, based on those rights as stated in the U.S. Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution, the Uinta County Commission agrees that the competent adults in Uinta County are best suited and able to make virus-related healthcare decisions for themselves and their children or wards. 

They also stated that each individual business owner has the right to mandate any form of dress or behavior within the confines of their business, including but not limited to, a facial covering.

“I think it is a statement of their own values and a response to their constituents they have been hearing from,” said Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit. “They want to show their support for those who have contacted them. Other counties in Wyoming have been doing similar resolutions. Also, I think this tells the governor that they don’t want him to do a statewide mandate.” 

Proffit said the problem she sees with this public statement is that it will make Public Health’s job harder, especially to get people to comply with health orders as they look to their elected leaders for guidance.

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National Weather Service warns of elevated fire watch, elevated haze 

PINEDALE (WNE) — Almost constant smoky haze from wildfires to the west of Wyoming provides brilliant sunsets – and should be a reminder that extreme fire dangers continue in western Wyoming. 

This week, the National Weather Service posted air quality alerts for continued smoke and haze along with warm, dry weather that will raise its fire danger to “high” on Saturday. 

NWS released these alerts on behalf of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Division and Wyoming Department of Health. 

“Obviously, when smoke is heavy we consider it a health concern, especially for children, older people and individuals with certain health conditions,” said Kim Deti for the Department of Health. “If smoke is heavy where you live, you should be mindful and limit outdoor exercise.” 

People with concerns can check the AQD’s current air quality conditions at its monitoring stations at http://www. wyvisnet.com. 

NWS’s fire danger forecasts point to ongoing low humidity, gusty winds and unseasonably warm temperatures that “will create erratic fire behavior.” 

For weather information, go to www.weather.gov/cys.

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Highway 22 crash takes life of Alta teenager

JACKSON (WNE) — The crash Saturday night that snarled traffic for hours on Highway 22 took the life of Jackson Hole High School student Wiley Jay Olsen, 17, of Alta.

Olsen was driving west on 22 at about 9:15 p.m. when his Subaru wagon left the roadway on the right side, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Matt Brackin said.

“We’re not sure why, but Olsen swerved to his right, then overcorrected by swerving left,” Brackin said. The overcorrection caused Olsen’s Subaru to spin across the center line into a Ford Expedition driven by Jose Barrera of Jackson.

Barrera “didn’t have any time to react,” Brackin said, and his Ford struck the Subaru’s passenger side.

Olsen died at the scene just east of the entrance to Skyline subdivision. Barrera and his wife, a passenger in the Ford, were transported by ambulance to St. John’s Health, Brackin said.

The highway was shut down until around 11 p.m. so troopers could could investigate the crash scene, Brackin said, then officers were able to start letting cars through a single lane.

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