Wyoming’s coronavirus case count up to 29

Wyoming’s coronavirus case count climbed to 29 on Monday as Gov. Mark Gordon warned state residents that the impact of the disease may be felt in the state for some time.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service closed Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on Tuesday in response to requests from health officers in surrounding counties.

The Wyoming Department of Health reported that Natrona County’s second case late Monday.

However, the increase in case numbers was tempered Monday with the news from Fremont County officials that two of the county’s 10 coronavirus patients had fully recovered and were released from isolation.

Fremont County continues to be the state’s hardest hit with a COVID-19 case count of 10, followed by Laramie County with seven.

Sheridan County had four cases; two were diagnosed in Teton, Carbon and Natrona counties; and the Health Department reported there was one case each in Campbell and Park counties.

In the face of the growing case numbers, Gordon said during a press briefing Monday that the impact of coronavirus is likely to be felt in Wyoming for some time.

“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” he said. “This is going to impact life in Wyoming for a long time to come.”

The state has already ordered the closure of businesses likely to draw more than 10 people and prohibited all gatherings of 10 people or more.

Gordon said at this point, he does not expect to issue a “shelter in place” order for people to remain in their homes, although he did say further restrictions may be necessary.

“At this point, we do not believe a shelter in place order is necessary,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to find a balance that respects private property rights, personal liberties and prudent health standards. We can hopefully look to Wyoming being a bellwether state that leads the nation in not having to proceed with shelter in place. But that can only come with citizens stepping up and doing their part with social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and doing their best to meet these orders.”

Gordon is among 21 Republican governors to send a letter to congressional leadership seeking additional funding for states in a $2 trillion stimulus package that was still being debated in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday morning.

The spending bill would provide $20 billion to the states to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. 

“It’s a start,” Gordon said during his news briefing Monday. “I don’t believe that this will be repaired easily. I think the consequences are very long term and I do believe that we will be back with needs for more direct infusions to the state.”

In other developments:

Fraud warning: U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen warned Wyoming residents to be wary of fraud schemes that have their roots in the coronavirus illness. Klaassen said around the country, a variety of different scams have surfaced.

“It is unfortunate, but criminals often use times of adversity to their advantage,” Klaassen said. “They see moments where our attention is distracted or we are susceptible to emotional responses as an opportunity to commit brazen acts of fraud.”

Scams seen around the country include the following: Companies and individuals selling fake testing kits, masks and treatments; “phishing” emails sent from entities posing as the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and malicious websites that appear to share coronavirus information but in fact infect computers with malware.

Remote education: Most of the state’s community colleges have decided to keep their campuses closed for the rest of the spring semester and provide education via computer. 

Sheridan, Gillette and Casper colleges, along with Northwestern Wyoming College, Laramie County Community College and Western Wyoming Colleges, all announced they will offer classes online.

Eastern Wyoming College, where spring break ended Monday, will provide classes online or through “modified” means, according to the college’s website.

Outdoor Expo: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department canceled its annual Outdoor Expo, to be held May 9-11. The department made the decision to minimize the likelihood of contact between people.

Wind River Reservation: The Wind River Inter-Tribal Council asked all Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal members to voluntarily self-isolate. The tribes said residents should leave their homes only for emergencies, to seek medical care or to buy essential goods or services.

Public restrooms: Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forest officials announced the forests’ public restrooms would be closed due to worries about spreading the coronavirus. Some guard stations and rental cabins will also be closed in the coming week.

Compiled from Wyoming News Exchange Newspapers