NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, July 9, 2020

Mislabeling leads to incorrect report of COVID case

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — On July 4, Weston County Public Health announced via its Facebook page that the second identified case of COVID-19 in the county was the result of mistaken identity and would be removed from the county’s case number. 

The case was originally confirmed on June 29 in updated case numbers released by the Wyoming Department of Health. Later that evening, public health released a statement confirming the case, reporting that it was found in a resident at Weston County Manor, a long-term care facility in Newcastle. 

At that time, the facility followed all protocols. The patient was quarantined, staff and residents were tested, and the facility was locked down and no longer allowed visitors. Subsequent tests performed on the patient came back negative, and Dr. Mike Jording, the county’s health officer, reported to the News Letter Journal at the time that the case may be a false positive. 

It turns out that the case was not a false positive but rather a positive improperly labeled at the Wyoming State lab, according to Lori Bickford, the county’s public health nurse.

According to Bickford, after the subsequent negatives, the state lab performed tests to identify the source of the samples. This test determined that two tests had been mislabeled. The test on the Manor resident was in fact negative. 


Laramie to allow open alcohol containers downtown

LARAMIE (WNE) — Open alcohol containers could soon be a common sight in the downtown area after the Laramie City Council on Tuesday approved a measure to allow for the practice in an attempt to help boost local businesses.

The resolution creating an open container area in the downtown district would have allowed businesses in the district with retail, microbrewery or winery liquor licenses to sell beverages from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday beginning July 16 and continuing through Labor Day. There are 14 businesses that meet that requirement in the downtown district. City staff worked with the Laramie Main Street Alliance to bring the proposal forward as part of City Council’s goals to strengthen the local economy.

“The feeling behind this for staff is that it would allow people to enjoy a beverage and do some extra shopping while encouraging people to spend a little more time in our downtown district,” Assistant City Manager Todd Feezer told council members.

The council ultimately approved the resolution, but with a delayed start date and for a four-week trial period after which council members will have the choice to extend the open container district.

Downtown building and business owner Brett Glass (who is also a candidate for city council in Ward 1) said the measure was a “terrible idea.” Glass brought up a litany of concerns that were echoed by other commenters, including increased littering, fights, vomit and urine in sidewalks and alleyways, underage consumption, unregulated overconsumption and increased drunk driving.


Park County cuts nearly $800,000, keeps all staff

CODY (WNE) — Park County finalized its budget on Tuesday, a financing measure with nearly $800,000 in cuts made to make ends meet. The county was able to avoid terminating employees and services.

“It was not an easy process this year but I think we did a pretty good job,” commission chair Joe Tilden said.

The county’s departments will take a 2.4% overall cut in their budgets for the next year. Sales, use and fuel taxes are projected to be down a combined 40-60%.

Of the 14 main county departments, planning and zoning will take the biggest cut with a 10.8% reduction in funding, despite the department seeing record numbers for building permits and revenues in recent months. The majority of this reduction will come from an 8.9% drop in wages stemming from the commissioners’ decision to not replace a small wastewater administrator.

The assessor’s office was also denied in a recent request to replace an employee.

Pat Meyer, Park County assessor, said the county has had about 10 employees for the past 20 years.

Meyer said short-staffed assessor departments can lead to mass appeals from the public. He said Natrona County, which has 14 people in its department, has about 3,000 appeals in its queue right now. In contrast, Park County only has one about every year or two, he said.


Jackson council allows shootout to resume

JACKSON (WNE) — What is believed to be the longest-running gunfight in the country resumed this week.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a divided Jackson Town Council voted 3-2 Monday night to allow the Jackson Hole Playhouse, in conjunction with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, to resume the Town Square Shootout twice nightly, Monday through Saturday, beginning Tuesday.

The measure was approved with two conditions: One, that it will remain subject to ongoing review by the Teton County Health Department and, two, that attendees be required to wear masks.

In voting in favor, councilors Arne Jorgensen, Hailey Morton Levinson and Jonathan Schechter pointed to the importance of Town Manager Larry Pardee’s ability to discontinue the shows without waiting for council approval if they end up posing a health danger to the public, what Schechter and Mayor Pete Muldoon called a “quick-reaction tool.”

The approximately 8-minute shows begin at 5:45 and 6:15 p.m. The intersection of Center and Deloney streets will be closed from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to accommodate the performances, according to council documents. Attendance will be capped at 175 people.

Muldoon and Councilor Jim Stanford were the two no votes, citing health concerns about having nearly 200 people gathering on Town Square to watch the performances. Both said they would like the shows to resume, acknowledging their popularity and long-running tradition, but they said couldn’t vote in favor because they worry about coronavirus spread.


Northwest College students, faculty will have to wear masks

POWELL (WNE) — Northwest College students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks when they come back to campus in the fall, according to a reopening plan the board of trustees approved Monday.

The plan outlines procedures under various scenarios of response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the areas of operations at the campus, including academics, residence life, dining, athletics, administration, events and gatherings, and community services.

Built into the plan is the ability to adjust restrictions in response to changing conditions. So if there was an outbreak, for example, the college could move more instruction to online formats.

“It represents hours and hours of thoughtful planning and discussion — cussing and discussing maybe a little — because we had to wrestle with all the things in this plan,” NWC President Stefani Hicswa said at the meeting.

Under the current recommended scenario for the fall, referred to in the plan as a “partial soft opening,” classroom instruction will take place in face-to-face and online formats.

Besides wearing masks, students participating in on-campus instruction will be required to maintain distancing. The plan says that will be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the size of the class, number of participants, and needs of the instruction.

Dean of Student Learning Greg Thomas, a member of the incident command team that coordinated the college’s pandemic response, said the team toured all the campus spaces to determine what challenges they’d face in maintaining social distancing.


Ten Sleep’s 20th Nowoodstock rescheduled

WORLAND — The 20th Nowoodstock music festival in Ten Sleep will have to wait a year with organizer Pat O’Brien announcing Monday that he is rescheduling the 20th event for Aug. 13-15, 2021. 

In a statement to the Northern Wyoming News and on Facebook, O’Brien said, “The current public health situation is trending the wrong way to responsibly hold Nowoodstock XX as scheduled.”

Nowoodstock XX was originally slated for Aug. 7-9. O’Brien said the contractual obligations had a deadline of this week to cancel without financial ramifications. O’Brien said he made the decision last week and let all the bands and musicians know about the decision. He made the public announcement on Monday. 

In an interview last year with the Northern Wyoming News, O’Brien said he may be close to retiring but on Monday O’Brien said he would be ready to organize the event next year. 

In fact, all bands originally scheduled for 2020 have been invited for 2021. As of Monday those who have committed to performing at Nowoodstock XX are Jalan Crossland, Taylor Scott Band, Prairie Wildfire, Jim and Sam, Rob Weimann and Low Water String Band.