Half of Public Health Staff Out with COVID-19, More Mask Orders Statewide, 1,000+ Active Cases in County

Campbell County Public Health building in Gillette (County 17 Photo/Taylor Helton)
Campbell County Public Health building in Gillette (County 17 Photo/Taylor Helton)

Campbell County Public Health has quite literally been overrun by COVID-19.

Campbell County Public Information Officer Ivy McGowan confirmed earlier today that Public Health currently has half of its staff out of the office due to COVID-19.

Public Health’s remaining staff are trying to do the work of an entire office with half the people, made even more complicated by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. As such, Public Health is offering only limited services and those services are offered by appointment only.

The agency’s popular drive-through flu shots and COVID-19 testing have both been postponed for the immediate future. When Public Health can offer the services again, information will be provided.

McGowan asked that the community recognize how easily COVID-19 can be transmitted and that citizens remain vigilant. Even in an office full of medical professionals, the novel coronavirus can be transmitted.

McGowan reiterated public health best practices including wearing masks, frequent handwashing, social distancing, avoiding touching your face, and staying home if you feel sick.

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Though some question the need for the recommendations, citing a high COVID-19 survivability rate, the virus is very new. Studies have not been able to evaluate the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on those who become infected. Additionally, those of advanced age or with preexisting health conditions have increased risk of death from or associated with COVID-19.

Healthcare providers in state becoming exhausted

Public Health’s current situation follows a disturbing trend in Wyoming.

In situations where public health professionals themselves have not been out sick due to COVID-19, those healthcare professionals that are treating Wyoming’s citizens who are ill with COVID-19 are becoming increasingly exhausted and overwhelmed. This is partly due to the increasing number of active cases across Wyoming and partly because of the length of the pandemic.

Yesterday, Governor Mark Gordon announced he was planning to utilize $10 million of CARES Act funds to bring additional medical personnel to Wyoming to assist the state’s healthcare professionals (County 17, Nov. 11). In yesterday’s announcement the Governor’s office noted that one month ago there were 56 people hospitalized because of COVID-19. The number yesterday was 178.

One day earlier the Wyoming Department of Health announced 13 additional coronavirus-related deaths in Wyoming, bringing the total to 127 (County 17, Nov. 11).

More mask orders

Three Wyoming counties – Teton, Laramie, and Albany – and the Wind River Reservation have policies in place requiring residents to wear face coverings at retail and commercial businesses, when obtaining healthcare, and when using public transit (County 17, Nov. 6).

Natrona County Commissioners passed a resolution earlier this week requiring masks be worn in county-owned buildings.

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According to reporting from the Casper Star-Tribune, Sublette County has now requested a county-wide mask order, though details on the order are thin. In its reporting, the Star-Tribune said that the order is being reviewed by the attorney general’s office.

Active cases in county exceed 1,000+

Campbell County today exceeded 1,000 active cases according to information from WDH. The number of lab confirmed cases in Campbell County now stands at 1,748 (with 722 recovered cases) and probable cases number 146 (with 57 recovered probable cases). The number of deaths in Campbell County remains at six. Active cases, however, now total 1,026 (the first time the number has exceed 1,000).

The number of active cases, and Public Health’s staff shortage, explain the organization’s announcement earlier this week to suspend contact tracing and direct those who believed that may have come in contact with a positive case to WDH (County 17, Nov. 10).

“The large number of contacts requiring tracing has overwhelmed public health offices across the state,” Dr. Alexis Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said in a prior release, “[making] it challenging for state and county public health representatives to handle the volume of contact tracing calls and related activities as quickly as they were able to at earlier points.”

According to WDH data, Wyoming now has 17,442 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 (with 9,949 recoveries), 3,037 probable cases (with 1,636 recovered probable cases), and 7,493 active cases. Wyoming has 127 coronavirus-related deaths to date.

For Now. Not Forever. Wyoming Department of Health Coronavirus Materials. (Public Domain)
For Now. Not Forever. Wyoming Department of Health Coronavirus Materials. (Public Domain)