NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, June 11, 2020

Fremont County woman was ninth Northern Arapho coronavirus victim

RIVERTON (WNE) — Like the previous eight, the ninth coronavirus death confirmed in Fremont County was a Northern Arapaho Tribal member. 

“The Northern Arapaho Business Council would like to express our sincere condolences on the passing of a tribal member due to COVID-19,” ran a Wednesday post to the tribe’s website. “Our hearts go out to you in your time of sorrow.” 

Tribal officials did not confirm by press time the deceased woman’s name age, town, or length of illness, and details from a Tuesday notice by the Wyoming Department of Health were sparse. 

The state department noted that an adult woman who was coronavirus-positive had died after being hospitalized. She’d had known health conditions listed as putting her at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. 

WDH, likewise, did not provide an age range for the woman. 

“We keep it pretty simple at the state level as far as the details we provide,” said WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti in an interview.

Through Wednesday half of Wyoming's 18 official coronavirus deaths had occurred in Fremont County.


NWCCC campuses reopen

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Northern Wyoming Community College District, including Gillette College, Sheridan College and Sheridan College in Johnson County, will enter Phase II of its reopening strategy Wednesday. Current and future students will be able to come to campuses to meet in-person with college personnel to register for classes, plan their education and explore financial aid opportunities.

Appointments are preferred, but walk-in visits are welcome.

NWCCD President Walter Tribley said this phase marks the first time since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, aside from a few exceptions, that members of the public will be allowed on campuses.

“During the first phase of reopening, only employees were allowed on campuses,” Tribley said. “This new phase allows individuals, or small groups of people from the same family unit, to visit our campuses in order to sign up for classes and complete necessary steps to prepare for the fall semester.”

On each campus, visitors will only be able to enter through main entrances, indicated by signage, and social distancing will be required at all times. Enrollment counselors will maintain a 6-foot distance from visitors, and face coverings will be optional. Hand sanitizer will also be readily available to visitors.

As the district continues its phased approach to reopening, staff members ask visitors to all campuses to adhere to safety protocols to protect the health of employees, visitors and communities.


‘Freedom Has a Birthday’ to have no in-person events

LARAMIE (WNE) — Laramie’s signature Fourth of July celebration won’t have in-person events in 2020, but the city is holding a virtual event instead and will provide a fireworks display on the holiday.

Freedom Has a Birthday has, for almost three decades, been a free event hosted at Washington Park, attracting around 10,000 people and 100 vendors with offerings of music, contests, vendor booths, food and more. But even as local economies across the state and nation start opening up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, city staff simply did not think hosting the event in its traditional form this year would meet public health orders.

“We just don’t feel like there’s any way in a public park in a setting like that to manage that size of potential crowd,” Jodi Guerin, the city’s recreation manager, said Tuesday. 

With no tickets and the open-venue format that goes with Freedom Has a Birthday, Guerin said it would be difficult to manage crowds and social distancing concerns.

As such, city staff began trying to think of how the community could celebrate while at home or at small gatherings with family and friends on the Fourth of July. Guerin reached out to Wyoming Public Radio with an idea of broadcasting live and recorded musical performances in the afternoon via radio and online.

“It certainly isn’t what we normally do, but thought sometimes you just have to reorganize selves and do what you can do,” she said.


Cody man sentenced to prison on child porn charge

CODY (WNE) — A Cody man and former Cody Cub Scouts den leader has been sentenced to 5-7 years in prison after pleading no contest to delivery of child pornography on June 1.

Carl Watts has been in custody at the Park County Detention Center since July 2019. He received credit for 313 days served in his sentence. Watts must also pay $260 in court fees.

Watts was found with 289 images related to the sexual exploitation of children on his Dell desktop computer. From this batch, 15 identified child victims of sexual exploitation were found.

Authorities first became aware of Watts’ alleged activities after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip from Tumblr that a user had uploaded six files with child pornography on the site in 2018.

Jack Hatfield, deputy prosecuting attorney, said it wasn’t because of lack of evidence that Watts didn’t enter a guilty plea, but rather his “low functioning IQ” that made a no contest plea easier for attorneys to get Watts through the legal process. Hatfield said Watts couldn’t wrap his head around the technology involved in the applications he was using.

“He didn’t understand that by reblogging he was uploading images,” Hatfield said.

He also said a guilty plea would have come with unnecessary scrutiny of the child pornography images.

After allegations became known about Watts, he was removed from a leadership role in Cub Scouts and banned from the organization. In order to have been able to appeal these decisions he would have had to be found not guilty.


Man arrested after biting roommate

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery and interference after allegedly biting his 39-year-old roommate multiple times early Wednesday morning.

During an altercation on West Sunset Drive, the man reportedly bit his roommate on his forehead and on each side of his neck, Police Lt. Brent Wasson said.

The suspect was “extremely intoxicated” and uncooperative with officers at the scene, he added.

When the man was told that he was going to be arrested, he refused orders to stand up and to cooperate during handcuffing. He “aggressively” pulled his hands away while being handcuffed and had to be assisted to the patrol car, which led to the interference charge, Wasson said.

Once at the Campbell County jail, the suspect attempted to bite a deputy who had tried to take his temperature during the intake process, Wasson said.

A police dog was requested to the scene but did not indicate any substances.

The two charges are misdemeanors.


Hot Springs State Park pools reopen

THERMOPOLIS (WNE) — A major part of tourism in Thermopolis has finally received the go-ahead to open their doors, although there are some restrictions still in place.

Hellies TePee Pool and Star Plunge were allowed to do a ‘soft opening’ the last week in May with several precautions in place, including no use of jetted hot tubs or locker rooms and open to members only.

Starting last June 6, the pools were opened to the public. While social distancing is still required, the locker rooms have reopened and limited numbers of people are allowed in the hot tubs.

The public is asked not to come to the pools if you are feeling ill or showing any of the signs of COVID-19 and to use every precaution for your personal safety, including proper washing of hands and sanitizing.

Both pools are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.

The State Bath House in Hot Springs State Park remains closed at this time.