Wyoming’s coronavirus case count grew to 162 on Friday morning, an increase of nine from the previous day.
The Wyoming Health Department announced that as of 10 a.m. Friday, nine new cases were reported in six counties, including the first case recorded in Lincoln County.
The increase came in the wake of the announcement by state health officials that after completing more than 1,800 tests of samples from people suspected of being infected with coronavirus, the state’s Public Health Laboratory will limit the samples it tests.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, announced Thursday the laboratory would only test samples from high-priority patients, health care workers and first responders.
Harrist said the move is designed to preserve the supply of testing materials available to the lab.
“It’s been clear for some time that materials needed for sample collection and testing are in very short supply in Wyoming and across the nation,” she said. “We’ve done well so far at our lab, but our concern about supplies of certain materials we need for testing has grown.”
Harrist said for the time being, testing would be limited to samples from the following: Health care workers and first responders; hospitalized patients; patients or staff in facilities such as nursing homes; people over 65 with underlying health conditions and the people who have close contact with them; and pregnant women.
Harrist recommended that samples from other patients be sent to private commercial laboratories.
As of Friday morning, Laramie County remained the hardest hit in Wyoming with 37 cases. Teton County had 32; Fremont County had 27; Natrona had 21; Sheridan had 10; Johnson had eight; Campbell had six; Albany had four; Carbon, Converse and Sweetwater had three cases each, Washakie and Goshen counties had two. Park, Sublette Lincoln and Uinta counties each had one case.
In other developments:
Unemployment claims: The state Department of Workforce Services said the state received 4,652 new claims for unemployment insurance last week, an increase of 800 percent from the week before businesses began shutting down because of the coronavirus. The biggest group of claims — 952 — came from leisure and hospitality industry workers, the department said.
VA Hospitals: Veterans Affairs clinics in Afton, Evanston, Riverton, Laramie, Wheatland, Torrington and Casper have ended face-to-face patient visits, however, enrolled veterans can receive care with telehealth services. Veterans Affairs hospitals in Sheridan and Cheyenne remain open.
UW workers: The University of Wyoming announced it will continue to pay its 2,200 student workers through the end of the spring semester, a move expected to cost about $1.5 million. The move is part of the university’s $2 million commitment to provide students with “financial security” during the coronavirus outbreak.
Job survey: More than 30 percent of those responding to a University of Wyoming survey reported they or a family member have lost their job or been laid off because of the coronavirus epidemic. The survey also showed that more than 50 percent of those questioned reported they or an immediate family member have had their pay or hours cut. The survey is the first of a series to be conducted by the university’s Survey and Analysis Center.
More on masks: Wyoming residents continue to provide masks for health care providers, manufacturing them by sewing and through 3D printing. Officials with the Sheridan Memorial Hospital report they are receiving an average of 300 masks per day from 30 individuals who stepped up to help.
At the University of Wyoming, all the 3D printers at its Engineering Education and Research Building Student Innovation Center are being used to produce masks for the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. On Monday, the university provided 115 masks for the medical center.
In Campbell County, DeeDee Peterson has organized a network of quilters and people who know how to sew to create masks for donation to various organizations in Gillette.
Donations: The Rocky Mountain Power Foundation announced it will donate $311,500 to community service organizations in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Organizations in Wyoming to receive donations include the Wyoming Rescue Mission in Casper, First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative and the Boys and Girls Club of Glenrock.
Parade time: Two parades are planned next week in Gillette to entertain residents of a nursing home that has been closed to visitors because of the coronavirus. Parade participants, who are being encouraged to decorate their cars for Wednesday’s parades, will drive past the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center.
Scavenger hunt: Lingle residents have created a drive-by scavenger hunt to entertain the town’s children. Sponsors of the event will put items in their windows that match the items listed for children to find. The parents of the children will then drive them around Lingle to see if they can find the items. Organizers said the event will last as long as social distancing guidelines are in place.