Wyoming News Exchange

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Wyoming News Exchange

State preparing for coronavirus, Gordon says

 

By Isabella Alves

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Via Wyoming News Exchange

 

CHEYENNE — While no cases of the COVID-19 virus had been reported in Wyoming as of Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Mark Gordon hosted a news conference to update the public on the steps the state is taking to prepare in case of an outbreak.

COVID-19 is the new version of the coronavirus that appeared late last year in Wuhan, China. It is a respiratory virus that has symptoms similar to the common cold, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after viral exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been nine deaths linked to the virus in Washington state, and outbreaks in 12 states, including California, Oregon and New Mexico, according to the CDC. The center is reporting that 60 people have contracted the virus in the United States, and 48 people contracted the virus abroad and have been repatriated to the U.S.

Gordon said the risk for a viral outbreak in Wyoming remains low, and he encouraged people to use good health practices, such as washing hands for at least 20 seconds and, if coughing, to cover their mouths.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist said most who contract the virus will have mild infections.

The people most at risk of a severe infection are the elderly and people with an underlying medical condition.

Of the people who contracted the virus, only about 16% needed hospitalization, Harrist said. She said this is a number people can use, but they should know this number is constantly evolving as more information is discovered about the virus.

The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has received COVID-19 test kits, and the lab is currently working to make sure the kits are working correctly, Harrist said. She estimates the kits will be ready for use on Wyomingites in about a week.

People are also buying face masks to try to prevent contracting the virus, but Harrist said not to do this.

“So we’re asking the public not to buy masks and not to wear masks,” she said. “There’s no evidence that that would protect someone in the general public from the virus, and it could potentially take mass supply away from the people who do need it.”

She said the only people who really need the masks are health care professionals and people who are sick in a health care setting.

Gordon said the state has been preparing for a possible outbreak in Wyoming for weeks, and making sure “vital resources” are protected. He also said the health department is using the pandemic flu response plan framework as a way to deal with a potential COVID-19 outbreak.

“The department has also been conducting assessments of our state hospitals, isolation capacity, bed capacity and ambulance availability,” Gordon said. “The Department of Health has also worked with the Department of Workforce Services and the Department of Family Services to provide guidance for employers and associate CDC guidelines for schools and child care facilities. Additional guidance from the CDC will be forthcoming.”

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said if schools have to close due to a virus outbreak, she’d work with them for a waiver to make sure the schools receive full funding for the school year.

“It is my responsibility in state law to work directly with local school districts to ensure the health, safety and welfare of students, teachers and other employees,” Balow said. “I will do what I can to avoid any districts being penalized financially for taking measures to protect their students.”

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