New COVID-19 Surge "Concerning," New Testing Options Available Soon

Oct 5, 2020

Credit Wyoming PBS

Gov. Mark Gordon said the number of new COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations in the state is very concerning. He addressed the rising metrics during a press conference on Monday.

Gordon said this might mean fewer people going out in public, which could slow the return of the economy. Gordon said it is up to the public to help limit the spread of the virus by following public health guidelines.

The situation is putting a strain on state and local health departments, he said.

"That's why I've authorized the use of the Wyoming National Guard to provide temporary contact tracing assistance to the Department of Health," he said. "They began their assignment today and will be utilized for a period of 30 days or less at which time we hope to have additional contact tracing resources in hand."

Both the governor and State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said a priority is to make sure Wyoming hospitals, especially small ones, don't become overwhelmed.

"In recent days, we've seen higher numbers than at any other point during the pandemic, and we are hearing about local hospitals starting to feel the pressure. It's important to remember that many of Wyoming's hospitals are small with just a handful of beds available for the most seriously ill patients," Harrist said.

As of Monday, there are more than 1,300 active cases of COVID-19 in the state. Despite the surge, officials say there won't be any additional public health restrictions at this time.

Harrist said that's because health officials are in "a different place" than they were in the spring. In addition to more and better testing options available, health care workers are getting more familiar with diagnosing and treating the disease.

"We also know more about the virus. We understand better how it spreads. We understand better the measures we can take to prevent it. And I'll take the opportunity to do it again: distancing, masks, staying home when you're sick and of course, hand hygiene," she said.

Officials are continually evaluating how the virus is affecting the state and if more restrictions are appropriate, she said.

Additionally, Harrist said the state recently signed a contract for the at-home tests with the same company that the University of Wyoming has been utilizing for its students and staff. This will add to the options Wyomingites have for testing and help support businesses across the state in need of widespread testing.

"What we do like about it is a lot of the support to be able to provide that at-home testing without needing to go to a provider as well as just being able to test a wide volume of people at those larger workplaces," she said.

Harrist added the state will be receiving 170,000 rapid tests from the federal government as part of a larger distribution of the tests across the country. Harrist said they will be providing more information about these tests soon.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.