EVANSTON — Following the confirmation of a COVID-19 infection in a child enrolled at the Evanston Child Development Center, a second point prevalence survey mass testing event was conducted at Evanston Community Health Center for ECDC on Tuesday, May 19. Results from that testing were available on Wednesday afternoon and all 53 people tested were negative for the presence of the novel coronavirus.
A press release from Uinta County Public Health said the survey was recommended by the Wyoming Department of Health due to the high potential impact of a positive case in a child who had been attending a childcare facility and was targeted toward individuals who may have been in contact with the child.
Evanston Community Health Center volunteered time, staff and personal protective equipment to take samples from the dozens of children and adults in a drive-thru setting over two hours on Tuesday. In an effort to expedite testing and results, the Wyoming State Fire Marshall’s Office volunteered to transport the samples directly to the Wyoming Public Health Lab in Cheyenne, which allowed for results to be returned in approximately 24 hours.
Uinta County Public Health staff said the results are very encouraging for the community and are very good news for the families of children attending ECDC, along with the center’s staff.
“This is a good sign, especially after the worry of not knowing the source for the infection in the positive case,” reads a release from public health. “The families involved were also incredibly patient and kind as they dealt with uncertainty and frightening prospects.”
Another case was confirmed in Uinta County on Thursday morning, unrelated to the child case. The new case is in an adult female residing in Evanston, who is said to be isolated and recovering at home. As with the last case, there is no known source for this infection.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Wyoming Department of Health website stated Uinta County has had nine confirmed and three probable cases, with seven of the confirmed and two of the probable listed as recovered. Statewide, the WDH says there have been 596 confirmed cases with 191 probable for a total of 787 cases. Of those 787, 534 are listed as officially recovered, which means at least 10 days have elapsed since the onset of symptoms and the infected individual has had no fever and improving symptoms for at least three days.
There have been 11 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Wyoming residents.
More than 18,000 tests have been conducted in the state, for a current positive test rate of about 3.3%, which is well below the current national average of approximately 10%. Uinta County’s positive test rate is listed on the WDH website as about 1%.
As the amount of testing increases, declining percentages of positive tests is one of the metrics utilized to determine whether it is safe to ease restrictions on businesses and individual activity.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said there were currently nine individuals hospitalized throughout the state. During that conference, Wyoming State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist emphasized officials continue to be concerned about high-risk individuals living in long-term care facilities around the state. Harrist said due to that concern the state is launching a proactive testing program of those individuals.
Harrist said there are two parts to that program. The first is that facilities without a confirmed outbreak are being asked to test at least 20% of residents and staff every two weeks for monitoring purposes and to ensure early signs of a potential outbreak aren’t being missed.
The second part of the program involves facilities that have had confirmed cases, which will be asked to test all residents and staff weekly until officials are sure the outbreak has been controlled. Harrist said state public health offices will work with facilities to help facilitate and orchestrate the testing.
Gordon also addressed the challenges facing schools throughout the state, from the University of Wyoming and community colleges to K-12 schools and preschools, as they already begin to prepare for the next school year, noting those challenges are “extraordinary.” He said folks statewide are already working every day to address the huge amount of work that will likely be required to get students back in buildings in the fall.
Gordon spoke of the looming challenges facing the state and the Wyoming Legislature to deal with the revenue losses related to the pandemic and what that will mean for the overall state budget, acknowledging the stark realities ahead. The Legislature just wrapped up a two-day special session to delineate how the state will handle the $1.25 billion dollars received through the federal CARES Act.
Gordon signed three bills on Wednesday to cover many aspects of the pandemic, including costs related to testing and contact tracing, personal protective equipment, assistance to renters and landlords, workers’ compensation claims and more. The Legislature also established three grant programs to help Wyoming small businesses, which will be handled by the Wyoming Business Council (WBC).
There are different grant programs designed to help businesses based on factors like the number of employees, whether a business was under closure orders, whether COVID-19 related expenses were incurred and more. The WBC is working to get the programs up and running and accepting applications as soon as possible and plans to announce informational webinars in the coming days. In the meantime, business owners are encouraged to get documents together, including W-9 forms and certificates of good standing, in preparation to file for some of the $325 million allocated for small business assistance.
There is also assistance available through the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security for businesses needing to acquire personal protective equipment required due to the public safety orders. Gordon said businesses can submit requests for assistance on the Wyoming DHS website at hls.wyo.gov.
Gordon again asked for continued cooperation with social distancing guidelines and recommendations for wearing cloth face coverings in public places, while also acknowledging the difficulties for businesses at the present time.
“I know that it is difficult to try to run a business at 50% capacity,” he said. “I want to thank the people of Wyoming for continuing to do the right thing, for your patience. … We are where we are today, and proudly so, because of what you were able to do exercising restraint, exercising responsibility and understanding that delicate balance between right and responsibility.
“The threat of COVID-19 has not gone, but with common sense precautions we will continue to make progress,” Gordon continued. “We’re way ahead of our peers and I’m excited about that. Our journey back won’t always be simple and easy, but here in Wyoming we are not scared of work. We know the value of community. We know the value of responsibility, of family, of common sense, and most especially, of faith. … I have faith that our state will continue, that our economy will improve, and that through the efforts of our people, we will continue to strengthen and that our great country will once again be able to do everything that we’ve wanted to do.”