SWEETWATER COUNTY -- Coronavirus testing options are continuing to expand locally, and health officials are still emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility and the impact individuals have on the community. Cooperation and consideration can lower infection rates, and failing to do so may cause Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County to lose its ability to send patients to Salt Lake City.
A Sweetwater County update was hosted shortly after the announcement of the extension of statewide health orders that were set to expire this week. They will now continue through July 15, with Gov. Mark Gordon neither increasing nor decreasing the restrictions already in place. On Monday afternoon, local officials outlined the continued local spread of the virus, local testing capability, the laws that govern those in self-quarantine or self-isolation.
HOSPITAL FLIGHTS GROUNDED?
Cielette M. Karn, MD, with Memorial Hospital keeps a close eye on test results. She said the hospital often turns to the University of Utah for a higher level of care, but the Salt Lake City hospital is nearing capacity even though it recently established another wing for coronavirus cases.
“That for us means it may be difficult for us to transfer patients from here to there,” she said.
Dr. Karn called this one of their greatest fears.
“We can do a great deal here, but we can't do everything,” she said.
LOOKING AT LOCAL NUMBERS
Sweetwater County saw 28 cases lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 from June 21-28, which beat the previous record of 17 confirmed cases in a similar period. As of press time Tuesday, Sweetwater County reported 81 lab-confirmed cases and nine probable cases, which are those who have been exposed to a confirmed case and are showing symptoms but did not have a positive test result, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Mixed attitudes and compliance with health recommendations have been seen locally, ranging from those wearing masks, limiting contact and practicing safe distancing to those who aren’t taking any preventative measures.
Deputy Jason Mower, the public affairs officer with the Sweetwater County Sheriff's Office, said everyone is entitled to their individual rights and freedoms, as long as they don’t impede the rights and freedoms of others. He asked residents to be respectful no matter where you fall on the spectrum.
“Your actions have the power to impact others,” he added.
Sweetwater County Public Health Director Kim Lionberger said most cases were contracted locally in social situations as opposed to coming from outside sources. On a positive note, she said most residents who tested positive were already in quarantine instead of being out in the public and potentially continuing the spread, though not all. In addition, most Sweetwater County cases were mild with symptoms that are manageable from home. However, some cases were still suffering from lingering fatigue even after they recovered.
IT’S A CRIME TO VIOLATE ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE ORDERS
Lionberger also went into detail regarding quarantine and isolation orders, which she said are some of the few items Public Health has in its toolbox to fight the spread.
People who have either tested positive for the virus or had close contact with an infected person – defined as being within 6 feet of a carrier for at least 10 minutes – are required to stay on their property for 14 days under order of law. It’s a misdemeanor offense to violate these orders, which could come with a fine or jail time. She added they don’t embed people with trackers, and wouldn’t want to as they could, as they rely on people to be responsible for themselves.
An isolation order is issued for those who tested positive or are probable cases displaying symptoms. Quarantine orders are for those who have had close contact with positive or probable cases. In either case, Lionberger said the waiting period is not shortened if people test negative. To be safe, people are expected to limit contact for the full period and be symptom free before reengaging with the public.
She said testing is available locally and people should get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms, which include such as a cough, congestion or runny nose, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and new loss of taste or smell.
Also during the briefing, Dr. Karn explained how Memorial Hospital and Castle Rock Medical Center keep adding to their testing options. She said Sweetwater Memorial hasn’t had any cases where COVID-19 spread from a patient to an employee, but they have had cases where workers caught it from the “outside world.”
She said they are shifting to protecting themselves as they can’t afford to lose any staff
“We want to be here to serve our community,” she said.