COVID-19 has now been found in all four Big Horn Basin counties, as weekend test results confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Big Horn and Hot Springs counties. The disease had previously been …
COVID-19 has now been found in all four Big Horn Basin counties, as weekend test results confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Big Horn and Hot Springs counties. The disease had previously been identified in Park and Washakie counties.
Public health officials in Big Horn County said they received word Sunday that a man was the first county resident to test positive for the disease.
“The details of this person’s exposure to the virus is currently under investigation and details will be released as appropriate,” the Big Horn County Public Health Team and Incident Management Team said in a news release. “Representatives from the county are working to ensure the health and safety of our residents.”
Big Horn County officials also encouraged residents to follow social distancing recommendations. They said evidence from other areas “clearly shows” that places that took precautions before COVID-19 began spreading widely “are significantly better able to address their community’s needs.”
“I know we are all getting a little stir-crazy,” Big Horn County Health Officer Dr. David Fairbanks had said Wednesday, ahead of the positive test. However, “the only way this works is to not give the virus a chance to spread,” Fairbanks said.
The news in Big Horn County followed the first confirmed case in Hot Springs County on Friday night.
Hot Springs County Public Health said it was “providing education, monitoring those at home on self quarantine, and connecting individuals to resources in order to decrease the spread of further illness.”
“This confirmed positive case does not change our everyday approach to slow the spread of COVID-19,” county officials added.
They reminded the public to avoid coming within 6 feet of ill people or those who have been exposed to the virus, to stay home when sick, avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, clean and disinfect regularly touched surfaces, wash hands thoroughly and frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.
Like Hot Springs and Big Horn counties, Park County has had only one confirmed case of COVID-19, among more than 215 Park County residents who’ve been tested. The Cody woman — a worker at Cody Regional Health — tested positive back on March 17 and has since made a full recovery.
Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin said Friday that he suspects there have been some false negatives — i.e. people who had COVID-19 but tested negative because of the shortcomings with the test.
Billin also sought to dispel the idea that the best solution to the outbreak is to allow most people to become infected, recover and become immune to the disease, so as to develop “herd immunity.”
“We cannot depend upon herd immunity when it is not yet known if anyone will have lasting immunity,” Billin wrote on Facebook, adding, “COVID-19 is caused by a new type of coronavirus and antibodies against coronaviruses are known to wane within weeks to a year. If you could develop lasting immunity to COVID-19, then we would be immune to many common colds which are also caused by coronaviruses. We know that this is not the case.”
On Saturday, he reiterated the need to continue social distancing, saying the peak in Wyoming “is still a few weeks away.”
Based on geolocation data compiled by Google, Billin said residents could be doing a better job as it relates to grocery shopping.
“Make a long term shopping list and try to send only one healthy family member to the store once weekly, rather than shopping with multiple family members several times throughout the week,” Billin advised.
He also encouraged residents to wear face coverings (and to not touch them or any unnecessary items) while in public places.
In the Big Horn Basin, Washakie County has had the most confirmed cases — five as of Sunday afternoon — plus three probable cases. (Probable cases are defined by state health officials as people who are “close contacts” of people with lab-confirmed cases and have symptoms “consistent with COVID-19,” but have not been tested.). Four of the confirmed and probable infected patients in Washakie County have already recovered, according to Wyoming Department of Health data.
As of Sunday afternoon, the department was reporting 270 confirmed cases and 94 probable cases in the state, with no deaths and 138 recoveries. Wyoming is the only state to have not lost a resident to the disease.
Laramie County has had the most confirmed cases (58), trailed by Teton County (56) and Fremont County (40). Out of Wyoming’s 23 counties, Platte and Weston counties are the only places where the disease has yet to be found.
However, public health officials have warned that the number of cases is misleading. Testing for the disease remains limited and — although it can produce serious illness and, in rare cases, death — many people who become infected with COVID-19 do not need to seek medical attention and recover at home.