Lander Declares State Of Emergency Amid COVID-19 Cluster At Retirement Center

Mar 17, 2020

Credit Loring Schaible

Following national and state-level declarations, the city of Lander has declared a state of emergency locally. The announcement came on Tuesday, after the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Fremont County rose to eight.

All eight are either staff members or residents of Lander's Showboat Retirement Center. State officials began an investigation over the weekend, after an older male resident tested positive for COVID-19. Of 14 at-risk individuals tested after that investigation, the Wyoming Department of Health confirmed that seven have contracted the disease.

"Each of the seven new cases is located in Fremont County, and is directly connected to the first Fremont County case announced on March 13," the department said in a statement Monday night.

Two of those Fremont County patients are currently isolated at SageWest Health Care, according to a Tuesday statement from Fremont County Health Officer Brian Gee. He wrote that the state has placed an "official quarantine" on all residents and patient care staff of Showboat Retirement Center, and that remaining staff have been placed on "strict self-quarantine."

Lander's Assistant Mayor Rajean Strube Fossen said that the emergency declaration will give city officials flexibility to react to the rapidly changing situation.

"If we need to change any of our city policies—be that personnel policies, water payment policies, water shut-off policies, reducing services in any way—we can now do it through the state of emergency, and we will not need to go through city council," Fossen said.

However, she urged residents to remain calm, and to continue to follow CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of the disease, including social distancing.

"This does not signal a new or heightened level of panic. But we all need to be very cognizant that [the coronavirus] is in our community, and do whatever we can to protect ourselves, our friends and our families," Strube Fossen said.

Meanwhile, city buildings in Lander are closed to the public except by appointment, and all city sponsored events are cancelled.

As of Tuesday evening, close to 100 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Wyoming and 11 have tested positive. In addition to the eight Fremont County Cases, there are two confirmed cases in Sheridan County and one in Laramie County.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.