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COVID-19 News from Around the State - May 4

This story may be updated throughout the day.

Compiled from Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Wyoming’s confirmed coronavirus case count increased by 15 over the weekend to total 435 by Monday morning, largely due to increases in Fremont County’s case count.

The Wyoming Health Department reported 10 new coronavirus cases in Fremont County on Saturday and Sunday, bringing the county’s total to 122.

Fremont County health officials have said that increased testing and contact tracing would lead to a significant increase in the number of cases in the county.

As of Monday morning, Fremont County had 122 cases; Laramie County had 101; Teton County had 67; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 15; Converse County had 14; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson and Sweetwater counties had 11; Albany had eight; Lincoln and Uinta had six; Carbon, Crook and Washakie had five; Goshen had three, and Big Horn had two. Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties each had one case.

Platte and Weston counties remain free of any confirmed cases of the illness.

The number of recoveries in both people with laboratory-confirmed cases and those with “probable” cases of coronavirus increased slightly over the weekend, growing by four to total 391. The number included 282 recoveries among people with laboratory-confirmed cases and 109 among people with “probable” cases, people who have not been tested for coronavirus but have shown symptoms and are known to have been in contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case.

In addition to the 435 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming, the Health Department said the state has 151 unconfirmed “probable” cases.

Meanwhile, legislative leaders have drafted several measures to be considered by the full Legislature during a special session expected to be called for this spring.

Members of the Legislature’s Management Council approved a package of bills to direct the spending of $1.25 billion in federal aid provided under the coronavirus relief package.

The bills include proposals to establish an eviction avoidance program, allow for capital construction and expand worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits. The bills would also use some of the money to help assist communities, nonprofit organizations and other agencies and to finance a small business support program proposed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon has proposed a three-phase plan that would release much of the money to small businesses in the form of grants and emergency loans.

In other developments:

Unemployment increases: Figures from the state Department of Workforce Services show that the the majority of people of people filing for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus reached Wyoming in early March is women. Figures show 51.5% of new unemployment claims in Wyoming since March 13 came from women. In the first 11 weeks of the year, women submitted 25.4% of the claims.

Coal woes: Business slowdowns forced by the coronavirus are compounding problems faced by Wyoming’s coal industry. Before coronavirus reached Wyoming, the coal industry was in a slump because of a decline in demand. The restrictions on businesses across the country has resulted in a drop in demand for electricity — and a resulting decline in the demand for coal, said Rob Godby, a University of Wyoming economist who has tracked the state’s coal industry for decades. “As long as we’ve got this COVID-19-induced recession and surplus of electricity generation, demand for coal is going to be weak — really weak,” he said.

Physician finances: Doctors across Wyoming are feeling a financial strain from the coronavirus, according to the Wyoming Medical Society and Wyoming Telehealth Network. The two groups, in a news release, said a survey of doctors showed that 70% of those questioned have seen an increase in cancellations of visits and that 62% are seeing or expect to see cash flow problems. Nationally, people are putting off visits to doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals for ailments not related to coronavirus.

Protests: A group of protestors in Gillette took to the streets Friday to demonstrate against the state public health orders that have closed bars, restaurants and other businesses and limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people. The protest took place outside The Office Saloon, which was ticketed last week for violating the state health orders by allowing people to gather for drinks on the bar’s property.

State Hospital tests: Coronavirus testing is taking place on a large scale at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston as part of a research effort. Willing patients and staff members are being tested in an attempt to get an idea of the spread of the illness in such a facility, where residents share a common area and staff members travel in and out of the hospital.

Online fair: Sweetwater County Fair officials are preparing plans to take the event online just in case conditions do not allow for a live fair. Officials have already agreed the fair will focus on events for the 4-H and Future Farmers of America and will not feature the traditional activities of concerts, concessionaires or a carnival. Officials have a plan for a live fair that would allow 4-H and FFA members to display their projects. However, an option for a virtual fair is also being prepared that would allow participants to submit photos and videos to be judged online.

School’s out: Riverton school officials have announced their classrooms will not open for the remainder of the school year. Terry Snyder, superintendent for Fremont County School District No. 25, told his board that school officials decided it would be best to leave the district’s buildings closed. “With the (coronavirus) numbers coming out of Fremont County, we don’t see any of the indicators, as we use data to drive our decisions, that would indicate that we could possibly not make that decision,” he said.

Warning: Doctors are warning Carbon County residents to avoid growing complacent about the threat posed by coronavirus. Dr. Greg Johnson, an emergency physician for Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, said despite the low number of cases in the county — five as of Monday morning — the danger of new cases still exists. “We don’t want to have a false reassurance that we’ve only had (five) cases in the county,” he said. “We’ve seen ill patients that we were unable to test.” Johnson’s comments came during a Facebook live stream sponsored by the hospital for Carbon County residents.

College grants: Central Wyoming College is offering assistance to its students who may need some help. Students can apply for up to $500 from a fund created with donations from community residents. Coralina Daly, CWC’s vice president for student affairs, said the money is designed to cover costs that may not be covered by student aid granted as part of the federal coronavirus relief act.

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