health

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Since the spring, contact tracing has been a crucial way to limit the spread of the COVID-19. But the current surge of cases in Wyoming and beyond has health departments struggling to keep up.

The news of a promising COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German company BioNTech is generating optimism this week.

But in the Mountain West, there will be significant challenges in storing and distributing this type of vaccine in rural areas.

COVID-19 is surging across the Mountain West, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America held a briefing Wednesday on the many challenges facing the region as the pandemic surge continues.

A new poll shows that half of Wyomingites are worried the worst is yet to come for the spread of COVID-19 in the state. That number is up 11 percentage points since October and 21 points since September, according to a new poll by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC).

The entire four-person staff of a county health department in northwest Montana resigned this week.

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Albany County will join Laramie County in requiring face coverings to be worn when people are in a public place and if they are lined up outside. 

A joint news conference between the Casper City Council and the Natrona County Board of County Commissioners meant to address the current surge of COVID-19 cases in Casper had to be adjourned when a hostile crowd would not stop shouting over local officials and medical experts. Most of the heckling downplayed the seriousness of the virus.

Savannah Maher

Chairman Lee Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Business Council has tested positive for COVID-19. According to a statement released Monday afternoon, Spoonhunter is experiencing mild symptoms and self-isolating under the supervision of the Northern Arapaho Tribe's clinic, Wind River Family and Community Healthcare.

Jeff Victor


Wyoming, like many states, has tried to strike a balance between letting businesses operate and slowing the spread of COVID-19. But businesses are struggling to keep their doors open amid a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

The Crowbar and Grill in downtown Laramie had to radically alter its operations when COVID-19 hit Wyoming in March.

Alan Simpson

Former U.S. Senator Al Simpson is in stable condition after experiencing a minor stroke Monday night. His son Colin said his mother noticed a change of character when she asked him to say his name earlier that day.

Simpson didn’t respond immediately so she called Cody Regional Hospital. He was flown to Denver the next day. Colin said his father is still at the hospital receiving tests and being evaluated for any other risks. He said his father is back to his old self now.

Leading Age Wyoming

October has been a month of COVID-19 records, including active cases, deaths and hospitalizations. It's also been a hard month for long-term care and assisted living facilities in the state. 

There are about 14 of these facilities in the state with current active COVID-19 cases. That's according to Leading Age Wyoming Executive Director Eric Boley. It is a non-profit association of 29 long term care and assisted living facilities in the state.

Utah has a number of major medical facilities that often take patients from all over the Mountain West. But the state is nearing a breaking point: too many COVID-19 patients and not enough resources. That crisis in care could have a domino effect around the region.


Wyoming Department of Health

Albany County has nearly 600 active, confirmed cases of the coronavirus, leading the state in total cases that have occurred since March.

Logan Potter is a senior at Boise State University. Like many others, the pandemic affected her mental health.

"I was struggling quite a bit, so I was like, 'I need to go to therapy,'" she said.


Savannah Maher

 

After getting an initial COVID-19 outbreak under control, tribal leaders on the Wind River Reservation are reporting a renewed wave of community spread. During a virtual address this week, Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Lee Spoonhunter called on community members not to allow "coronavirus fatigue" to influence their behavior.

Screenshot of Wyoming PBS stream

Gov. Mark Gordon says the trend of COVID-19 cases in the state is going straight up.

A newly published study out of the University of Idaho suggests that the higher perceived risk of a disease, the more likely someone is to vaccinate.

Ivinson Memorial Hospital

Albany County is currently experiencing a surge in confirmed, active coronavirus cases. And one measure of the virus' spread - available intensive care unit beds - is in flux.

Public Domain

As COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations surge in our state, some public health officers are worried that some individuals who tested positive are not adhering to health safety guidelines and potentially threatening the more vulnerable populations in the state.

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

At the start of the pandemic, the CEO of St. John's Hospital in Jackson had a big concern. The hospital runs a Senior Living Center and Paul Beaupre feared an outbreak.

Wyoming Department of Health

October marks the first month the Wyoming Children's Health Insurance Program is run by the state’s Department of Health. 

Also known as Kid Care CHIP, the program provides health insurance benefits for low-income children. It was previously operated by a private insurance company.

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A record 44 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state as of Tuesday, October 6. State officials and health experts have concerns about the pressure this could put Wyoming's small hospitals.

The Tri-County Health Department in Colorado is a marriage between three counties. But after 55 years together, the pandemic has them on the brink of divorce.

The relationship started with a devastating flood. Lora Thomas remembers it vividly.

“I remember sitting on Ruby Hill in Denver watching this wall of water coming down the Platte River,” said Thomas. “There were actually horses in that water that had come from a racetrack.”

Feeding

When the pandemic hit the Laramie community, food banks saw an increase in visitors. To continue to support those facing economic hardships this fall, Feeding Laramie Valley implemented the Kids Home For Dinner program to provide kids with two homemade meals for the weekend. 

Winter is coming, and COVID-19 is still here. That means socializing is about to get harder as temperatures drop and activities move indoors.

One potential tactic is to form something called a “social bubble,” also known as a “pandemic pod” or a “quaranteam.” The gist is to join forces with another family, or small group of people, and socialize exclusively with them while maintaining a safe distance from others.

For months it appeared that the Mountain West had COVID-19 somewhat under control. But now the positivity rate is skyrocketing in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

"I feel despair," says Christine Porter, an associate professor of public health at the University of Wyoming.

A new study suggests smoke from wildfires is more dangerous than other air pollutants for asthma patients. 

TENNESSEE WATSON

Last spring, Sequel Youth and Family Services, a national organization that runs facilities for youth with emotional and behavioral problems, gained attention when a young man named Cornelius Frederick was killed by staff at one of their facilities in Michigan. This week, an APM Reports investigation revealed a pattern of abuse and harm at juvenile treatment centers run by the organization.

In the last two years, eight of Sequel's facilities have been shut down, six of which were under pressure from or amid investigations by various government agencies across the country. Currently, its facilities in Alabama are under investigation, and Ohio is in the process of revoking its facility's license. Normative Services Institute (NSI), a private juvenile facility in Sheridan, Wyoming, is run by the same organization.


Despite a record high number of 941 active COVID-19 cases in Wyoming as of Thursday, Gov. Mark Gordon announced in a press conference that there would be no new public health orders.

Over the past few months, a number of Japanese health officials have praised their country’s contact tracing approach, saying it’s one of the “secrets” to their early success in containing COVID-19.

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