SWEETWATER COUNTY — This week Sweetwater County’s confirmed COVID-19 count grew to three as Wyoming remained the only state without a known death of a coronavirus patient. The Sweetwater County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center included a message for “friends and neighbors” in the daily briefing Friday.
“The communal, personal and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have infringed upon every fabric of our daily lives. This unwelcome disruption has at times generated a panic that we must together continue fighting to transcend. Still in its infancy in Wyoming and here in Sweetwater County, the reality is that no one knows with any reasonable degree of certainty what the consequences of this public health crisis imply for us, our community, our state, our country and the world.
“While we all struggle to meet the challenges of navigating this new reality, sadly, slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus both locally and globally represents a marathon, not a sprint.
“After two weeks of around-the-clock work to activate, organize and streamline our operations, we are honored and humbled to work with such an experienced and talented group of people and to serve one another as neighbors to do everything we can to protect our community. We are confident that, if we all continue to do our part by following all current guidelines and recommendations, particularly as they relate to social and physical distancing, we are in good hands here in Sweetwater County, and we will all get through this crisis together.
“In an effort not to inundate the public with unnecessary, noncritical or repetitive information, and not to overwhelm or exhaust those serving the emergency operations center this early in the game, so to say, absent exigency or any critically relevant local updates, the emergency operations has opted to recess from official operations over the coming weekend.
“We encourage everyone out there to take a break from the drama as well, but to please experiment with new and creative ways to rest, relax and recuperate that respect the guidelines of our current reality. We will resume formal operations, including the release of our daily situation report, on Monday, April 6, 2020. Be safe, be well and take care!”
CONDITION OF LOCAL PATIENTS
On Thursday, the EOC announced that the first confirmed positive Sweetwater County patient – a Green River man in his 40s — is fully recovered and has returned to work. The second confirmed positive patient – a Green River man in his 20s — remains in quarantine in good condition with mild symptoms treatable from home. The third confirmed positive patient, a young child, also remains in good condition with mild symptoms treatable from home.
COMMON QUESTIONS AND EOC ANSWERS
What contingency plans are in place in the event Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is overwhelmed with COVID patients?
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is actively working with both Aspen Medical Center and Castle Rock Medical Center not only to address potential overflow from COVID-19 patients but also for regular and ongoing patient care needs.
What other locations are being considered?
Western Wyoming Community College has offered one of its dormitory buildings as a possible alternative treatment or housing facility. The EOC continues to work with our local health care providers to identify other existing facilities suitable for varying levels of triage and/or treatment. Officials said we are fortunate to have a number of different potential alternatives in our community to include the Sweetwater Events Complex, Wyoming National Guard armory and a privately owned and operated community health and/or medical clinics.
What is being done to prepare those locations for use now?
Officials are coordinating the development and execution of several different memoranda of understanding between a number of different organizations and facilities to ensure everything is in place as potential needs present themselves.
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County already has an existing MOU with Aspen Medical Center to address potential patient overflow issues, which predates the COVID-19 crisis. EOC members are also working to define various “trigger points” for the activation of these facilities and planning for the labor, equipment and supplies needed to seamlessly and expeditiously achieve these transitions.
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What is being done to locate additional ventilators, if needed?
There is already a supply chain in place that allows Sweetwater County Emergency Management and Sweetwater County Public Health, in coordination with their counterpart agencies in state government, to receive critical equipment and supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). To date, during this crisis and through these preexisting processes, Sweetwater County has already received a bulk shipment of PPE from the SNS and will soon receive a bulk shipment of hand sanitizer. These supplies are then distributed locally by Emergency Management and County Public Health.
What is being done to identify additional medical personnel, if needed?
One of the EOC’s biggest priorities is to preserve the workforce by avoiding any exposures or infections to our medical and health care professionals and our emergency first responders including emergency medical services, law enforcement, fire, nurses, physicians, etc. It continues to distribute and facilitate the distribution of critical PPE supplies to these groups to ensure they have the safety equipment they need to continue to safely do their jobs and serve the public during this crisis.
Some considerations made to bolster staff include drawing from other local providers as well as contacting reserve and/or recently retired personnel. However, as with additional supplies, the best way to address the need for additional personnel is to not need them by everyone doing their part to flatten the curve.
ON TESTING AND EXPONENTIAL SPREAD
Wednesday’s briefing from the Sweetwater County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center focused on clearing up confusion about the spread of the coronavirus and testing.
Dr. Jean Stachon, the Sweetwater County health officer, explained the exponential growth of the infection, likening it to breeding rabbits where numbers can rapidly grow, even if some of the cases are identified and quarantined.
“And this is even more skilled at breeding than rabbits,” she added.
Officials stressed that testing is available locally and has expanded, though it remains limited. The Wyoming Department of Health has ever-changing guidelines for tests, and it was noted that the second confirmed COVID-19 case in Sweetwater County would not have been identified if they didn’t turn to outside labs for testing.
Dr. Stachon said Wyoming’s independent spirit works in our favor, as we have more people used to distancing themselves from others and hunkering down. She stressed now is the time to practice good habits like proper hand washing and physical distancing to keep the number of cases low and keep from having too many people hospitalized at the same time.
She said she predicts Wyoming’s peak in cases will come two months from now, meaning we have more time to prepare and learn from other places. She said the goal is to prolong the need to admit people for a prolonged
The spread of the virus in Wyoming won’t be stopped by clinical interventions like vaccines, Stachon said, but by social distancing and sanitation.