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Casper Star-Tribune

CASPER — More than 120 residents of Wyoming long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19 since March, according to data provided by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Those deaths account for 28% of all COVID-19 deaths reported in Wyoming.

The new data shows 47 facilities statewide have reported cases since March; 27 facilities had ongoing outbreaks as of Monday, meaning rounds of follow-up testing done at those facilities after cases were reported are either ongoing or are still turning up new cases. Nine facilities since Dec. 4 have reported cases for the first time.

Twenty-five of these locations reported new cases between Dec. 4 and Jan. 4. Eleven reported new deaths. In the last month, 43 residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have reportedly died from COVID-19.

A handful of facilities have reported new large outbreaks since early December. Gillette’s Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center doubled its case count from less than 50 to 110 including probable cases. It also added five new deaths in the last month.

Life Care Center of Casper added nine new deaths since Dec. 4 and raised its case count between staff and residents from 31 to nearly 80.

Two facilities reporting cases for the first time this month are experiencing large scale outbreaks. Mission at Castle Rock, a Sweetwater County nursing home, has reported 91 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in the last month and two resident deaths. The Veteran’s Home of Wyoming in Buffalo has reported 67 COVID-19 infections to the state since Dec. 4. No deaths have been reported.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have since March been under broad lockdown measures intended to keep the virus out, but many such locations have been ravaged by COVID-19 regardless.

Nationwide, long-term care residents make up 38% of all COVID-19 deaths despite making up less than 1% of the national population, according to research from the COVID Tracking Project.

Residents of these facilities tend to be older and many have underlying health conditions making them more vulnerable to complications from the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Because of this, long-term care facilities have been included in the first tier of the state’s vaccination plan. Wyoming is hoping to see long-term care residents inoculated through a partnership with chain pharmacies Walgreens and CVS.

The Wyoming Department of Health has said that program will begin this month. Facilities can opt in to the program for no cost, and the pharmacies handle every step of the process from scheduling the first clinics to following up when the next dose is needed.

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