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Natrona County dismantling coronavirus response operations

CASPER – Various structures put in place in Natrona County to respond to the novel coronavirus are being dismantled and put on standby as the disease appears to have slowed here and the state continues to loosen restrictions on everyday life.

There has been just one new coronavirus case confirmed in Natrona County in the past three weeks. That new patient’s diagnosis was confirmed Wednesday and stands as the county’s 39th positively identified case.

Before that confirmation, county officials announced Wednesday that the Emergency Operations Center was demobilizing.

The center was a centralization of agencies, like the county health department and city officials, that worked together to distribute information and address the virus collectively. In the early days of the pandemic, the agency held daily, and then thrice-weekly press briefings.

But recently, that has slowed to one briefing a week.

Casper-Natrona County Health Department spokeswoman Hailey Bloom said that two facilities set up to allow the homeless and other vulnerable populations to quarantine safely have been closed.

The two buildings were former schools — Westwood and Willard — and had been opened as part of the county’s emergency response.

Several people were quarantined at Westwood at one point, when the virus’s spread was more pronounced here and an outbreak at Wyoming Behavioral Institute affected at-risk populations.

Perhaps the most significant part of Casper’s response, Wyoming Medical Center’s respiratory clinic, has also largely wrapped up its work.

Hospital spokeswoman Kristy Bleizeffer said that the clinic’s services have been moved to Sage Primary Care, out of the building in central Casper that the clinic had occupied for several weeks.

The hospital is directing respiratory patients with coronavirus-like symptoms to Sage; it asks that the patients call upon arrival and wait in their cars.

“This change was made to better utilize staff and other resources after a drop in patient volume at the respiratory clinic,” Bleizeffer told the Star-Tribune in an email. “We will be using the same social distancing and isolation protocols and keeping the hotline open for the time being. We will be able to reopen the physical clinic on Fenway in the future if the need arises.”

In its first few weeks of operation, the clinic had seen hundreds of potential COVID-19 patients as the hospital and its outlying clinics routed all patients with coronavirus-like symptoms there.

The shift away from emergency response here comes as the county and state continue to loosen up restrictions on businesses.

Restaurants can now offer in-person, indoor dining to all patrons. Barbershops, tattoo parlors and nail salons have reopened, churches can resume service and gatherings of up to 25 people are now permitted.

Officials in Natrona County previously said that in addition to confirmed cases stabilizing, the situation had improved here because of more available testing and because WMC continues to have sufficient ability to treat any severe patients in its intensive care unit.

The 39th Natrona County coronavirus case is a woman in her 40s; it’s unclear as of Wednesday how she was exposed to the virus.