NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, July 27, 2020

UW student creates petition about higher fees for online courses

LARAMIE (WNE) — More than 3,500 people have signed an online petition as of Saturday afternoon asking the University of Wyoming to waive the fees that students will have to pay for classes that have moved online for the fall semester.

“It’s just about financial accountability and transparency,” said Hunter Bullard, a senior at UW who started the petition.

Students taking courses that have moved online will pay the typical distance-learning fee on top of tuition, of $25 per credit-hour. This is a significant step up from some of the program fees that are charged for the same courses when they are taught on campus.

Fees could rise from $9 to $75 for a typical three credit-hour course in the College of Arts and Sciences, as long as it is not a science or performance class.

Bullard’s $54 in program fees will become $378 in distance-learning fees. She is a political science major, so all six of the courses she has enrolled in are within the College of Arts and Sciences. Five of her six courses were moved online, according to her course registration.

Other schools and programs within the university charge higher program fees than the College of Arts and Sciences, so many students will not see as much of an increase as Bullard. Courses in the Education College and Engineering and Applied Science College all have program fees equal to or higher than the distance learning fee, along with scientific and quantitative courses in some other colleges.

The petition that Bullard started asks the university to waive the distance-learning fee for courses that would have been held in-person in other years.


Teton county health director: Growth in cases 'gives me the chills'

JACKSON (WNE) — If Teton County were a state, it would have the fourth-highest rate of new daily coronavirus infections per 100,000 people.

Using that metric, which allows communities of different sizes to be compared, only Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi would have higher rates.

Over the past two weeks, the seven-day rolling average of that rate in Teton County has grown from 9.1 per 100,000 people to 39.

“That gives me the chills,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said during Friday afternoon’s COVID-19 community update.

In the past two weeks, 99 new cases have been confirmed in the county, Pond said, 39% of all cases since the start of the pandemic. 

Of those 99 cases, 55 had contact with a known case as a risk factor, while 10 had travel as a risk factor. Twenty-five are attributed to community spread, and some of the cases are still in the contact tracing process.

One piece of good news in the COVID-19 numbers is the relative lack of hospitalizations. According to the Teton County coronavirus dashboard, three patients are at St. John’s due to COVID-19, two in the primary care unit and one in the intensive care unit. The low numbers may be in part because most of the recent patients are under the age of 34, and therefore statistically less likely to come down with a severe illness.

Basically every official who spoke at Friday’s update stressed that the recent spread is not due to summer tourists.

“The data that we’re looking at suggests that the vast majority of the spread is us giving this to each other, not that it’s coming to us from visitors,” said St. John’s Health CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre.

Pond said much of the spread seems to be linked to smaller social events like house parties or barbecues.

Rozet man caught with bag of urine at Campbell County Sheriff’s Office

GILLETTE (WNE) — Thursday afternoon, Campbell County deputies found a concealed bag of urine when arresting a 60-year-old man from Rozet, who recently was released from federal prison, said Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

The man showed up to the Sheriff’s Office to give a urine sample per the terms of his federal parole. Deputies discovered a warrant for his arrest for violating his conditional release and handcuffed him in the lobby.

While walking him outside of the building to the jail around the corner, the suspect admitted to concealing urine on his body.

“I’m going to let you know, I’ve got a fake pee thing up in my shorts,” the suspect said according to Reynolds.

Once at the jail, his handcuffs were removed and a strip searched was conducted. At that point, a bag of urine was found attached by Velcro to the waistband of his underwear. He said the urine inside of the bag was his own from before he recently began using drugs again.

The man admitted to using methamphetamine Sunday.

He was additionally arrested for misdemeanor defrauding a drug and alcohol screen test, Reynolds said.


Braver Angels debate brings more than red, blue perspective

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Cheyenne resident Marguerite Herman described the first Braver Angels Wyoming-Montana debate as interesting, enjoyable, a little surprising and full of good lessons about civil conversation.

Braver Angels Wyoming coordinator Kris Korfanta said she has been repeatedly pleasantly surprised with the quality coming out of debates on subjects from gun control to defunding police.

“It does open the door for possibly changing a mind, but even if it doesn’t change your mind, it’s good to understand,” Herman said. “That requires you to listen and give credit, not listen simply to say, ‘You’re wrong.’”

Braver Angels hosted the first Wyoming-Montana debate online Monday, which brought residents of both states together for discussion on the electoral college.

When Braver Angels, formerly Better Angels, rolled out as a national platform for civil political conversation, the message centered on uniting “red” and “blue” voters (generally conservative and liberal) in workshops and debates so participants could practice confronting often the most extreme examples of opposition to their own beliefs.

Herman discovered Braver Angels in early July through an acquaintance in the League of Women Voters. Part of her draw to the group was a lack of partisan declaration for debate — nonpartisanship is a core value of the League as well.

She was surprised by the strict structure for speeches and responses but understood the need for formality to keep conversation balanced and civil. Respectful listening and response was achieved by directing questions at the moderator rather than challenging a speaker directly.

Braver Angels national debates continue next week with discussion about immigration July 28 and institutional racial bias July 30. Registration is available at the Braver Angels website.