EVANSTON — The situation remains concerning as confirmed COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Wyoming and surrounding states. Although the situation in Uinta County has not reached the same critical nature as that in other nearby areas, local cases also continue to increase. As of press time, there were 47 active Uinta County cases reported on the Wyoming Information Sharing Platform (WISP), with nearly half of those reported since Thursday.
The number of Uinta County COVID-19 fatalities increased to three late last week with the announcement of the death of “an older adult,” a Uinta County woman who was hospitalized out of state. She reportedly had “health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.” The Uinta County death, along with other deaths reported late last week, brought Wyoming’s total fatalities attributed to COVID-19 to 68.
Wyoming is listed as being in the “red zone” on the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report from last week, along with 30 other states. The designation on this report is for states reporting 101 or more new cases per 100,000 residents. Wyoming’s most recent report shows a rate of 348 new cases per 100,000 residents. On the Wyoming COVID-19 dashboard, three of the six metrics are red or “concerning.”
The statewide 14-day rolling average of new cases per day was 195.9 as of Sunday, Oct. 25. The 14-day rolling average was 122.7 two weeks earlier on Oct. 11 and 78.4 one month earlier on Sept. 25. On Sept. 9, the 14-day rolling average of new cases per day was 27.7. There has been a dramatic and sustained increase since that time — a Wyoming Department of Health graph of the average going back to March 20 shows not a curve but a nearly vertical upward climb beginning in mid-September. The average new cases per day has increased by more than 600% since Sept. 9.
In Uinta County’s immediate neighboring counties in Utah, healthcare workers at the University of Utah Medical Center and other facilities took to local media outlets over the weekend to plead for public compliance with health recommendations designed to slow the transmission of disease. Tearful doctors and nurses described overflowing ICUs and staff shortages.
In a weekly COVID-19 briefing held on Friday, Oct. 23, Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit said the situation in Utah hospitals is very concerning. “If they’re full, it won’t take much for ERH to be full,” she said.
The Oct. 20 White House Task Force report on Utah specifically states, “Transmission is very widespread across almost all parts of Utah, driven primarily by smaller gatherings of family, friends and neighbors.” That report goes on to recommend “avoidance of all such gatherings” or “the use of face coverings and social distancing, especially in any indoor setting.”
Proffit said local case counts don’t provide a large enough sample size to make the same definitive statements about where infections are occurring; however, she said, there is evidence of transmission in workplaces, churches and other areas where people are congregating indoors in small groups. She said there is also evidence some people are traveling to Utah — which she described as a current “hot bed” — and returning to Uinta County unknowingly infected.
Particularly as the Halloween holiday weekend approaches, Proffit said she is worried “we may be heading into another Memorial Day weekend scenario,” referencing gatherings that took place over Memorial Day weekend believed to have resulted in a pronounced spike in local cases.
Proffit said she would issue the same guidance as that in the White House Task Force Utah report — urging people to avoid crowded gatherings, even if it’s only a few people in a small space, wear face coverings and use social distancing when in close proximity to other people outside of the immediate household. She said trick-or-treating activities outdoors and maintaining distance between other groups carry less risk than crowded indoor gatherings, particularly if those inside aren’t masked, are in close quarters and in poorly-ventilated areas.
“If you can avoid large groups, please do,” Proffit pleaded. “I understand we’re all tired of this and we want to have some fun, but I strongly encourage people to be super cautious this weekend. We’ve been preparing to see a fall uptick and we’re seeing it — and it’s likely to get worse.”