Campbell County Public Health issued a statement Tuesday afternoon clarifying projections made by Dr. Nicholas Stamato, cardiologist and chief of medical staff at Campbell County Memorial Hospital, in a video that appeared on local media and YouTube Tuesday. In the video, Dr. Stamato made some bold statements regarding his predictions of the impact of the novel coronavirus on the community. Among those, he stated specifically, that over the next few weeks more than 10,000 Campbell County residents would become infected and hundreds may die.
“You may think that we have one case in our county, but that is not true. We only have one case that we have been able to test,” Stamato said in the video. “The experts tell us that we have hundreds if not thousands of people already infected by this virus in our county.”
He said that each and every one of us will either become ill ourselves or know someone—a close friend or family member—who becomes infected.
“This is an important problem that we must all address,” Stamato said.
Such projections are not supported by Campbell County Public Health or the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), clarified Campbell County Public Information Coordinator Ivy Castleberry on behalf of the county’s public health department.
“At this point, WDH does not know how widespread COVID-19 may become, across Wyoming, or at individual community levels,” Castleberry said. “We don’t know what this is going to look like when it’s all said and done.”
She’s not saying that Dr. Stamato’s numbers are wrong, Castleberry noted, but rather, that the methodology used to determine those numbers may be flawed. For example, he used statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) to determine his percentages, which includes data from the entire country with widely different demographics and ecosystems, she said.
“If you look at the infection rates across the U.S., there are a few densely populated urban areas that have a high spread of cases in New York and Seattle, for example,” Castleberry said. “You can’t take those same areas and apply it to a rural community like ours. It’s a flawed application.”
She also noted that given that healthcare providers have been instructed only to test those who are most likely to have the virus, that the data is also dually skewed in that it’s geared toward those patients who most likely have COVID-19 as opposed to being non-symptomatic.
While testing is a valuable tool, it cannot give us the entire picture, she said. “What we do know is that the measures we continue to encourage everyone to follow do make a difference in preventing the spread of the disease.”
In this regard, she believes Dr. Stamato was correct in saying that COVID-19 is something that everyone should take seriously.
“This coronavirus is one that spreads easily from person to person. It is critically important to follow the orders issued by the state,” she said. “Namely, avoiding groups of 10 or more and maintaining at least six feet of physical distance.”
Compared to other cities and states, Wyoming ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to self-isolating as reported Tuesday in The Washington Post, where a recently launched “Social Distancing Scoreboard” by Unacast gave Wyoming an ‘F’ rating. The scoreboard, which ranks each state, county by county, for how well they’re following coronavirus stay-at-home advice from health officials nationwide, reflects data collected from tens of millions of smartphones. Wyoming’s supremely low score suggests residents across the state are not changing behavior patterns at the same rate as other states, if at all, in response to the outbreak.
According to scoreboard data, the Wyoming counties altogether failing at social distancing include Johnson, Uinta, Carbon, Sweetwater and Albany. In contrast, the top five counties actively practicing social distancing in Wyoming included Teton and Hot Springs, which received ‘A’ grades, as well as Goshen, Big Horn and Park, which received ‘B’ grades for each doing their part, respectively, per the Unacast company website. Campbell County’s efforts were not listed.
Castleberry agreed that as a county we could be doing better to socially isolate by reducing the number of trips to the grocery store each week, for example, and not bringing the entire family to the store and instead designating one person to go to reduce the risk of public exposure.
This is something we should all be taking seriously, Castleberry reiterated, echoing Dr. Stamato’s message of urgency about the contagious nature of COVID-19.
Residents can do their part to prevent the spread of coronavirus by regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, covering coughs and sneezes and cleaning commonly touched surfaces regularly, the release stated.
Campbell County Health could not be reached for comment.