As new restrictions take effect in Park County and around the state, the number of active COVID-19 infections in Powell more than doubled in the span of a week, according to data from Park County …
As new restrictions take effect in Park County and around the state, the number of active COVID-19 infections in Powell more than doubled in the span of a week, according to data from Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin.
There were 26 Powell area residents dealing with confirmed or probable cases on Nov. 16, Billin said, but that shot up to a new high of 56 active infections on Monday. For comparison, there were only eight active cases in the Powell area back on Oct. 7 — and as of Monday, there were fewer active cases (52) in Cody. Billin reported a total of 133 active infections on Monday in the county and as of Wednesday, there were four patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Powell Valley Healthcare and Cody Regional Health.
One of Billin’s coworkers at PVHC, Dr. Valerie Lengfelder, said the recent cases have been coming from the general spread of the virus around the community.
“It happens when people are around others in close proximity. It happens from people gathering in groups such as home parties, weddings, church gatherings, family events, anything where people congregate and it is worsened if they don’t wear masks or don’t maintain social distancing,” Lengfelder said in a Facebook comment on Tuesday.
Billin said that, since the beginning of the pandemic, roughly 3.5% of those tested for COVID-19 in Park County have been confirmed to actually have the virus. But the test positivity rate is currently averaging around 18%, he said Monday.
“This increase indicates both a significant increase in cases and inadequate testing for the number of cases,” Billin wrote in a Facebook post.
Responding to a commenter, Billin indicated the number of people who don’t want to get tested when they’re sick and refuse to assist health officers tracing their contacts “has become a real problem.” One Worland woman on the thread specifically said she will not get tested if she ever believes she’s contracted the disease.
The conflicting guidance that health professionals at the international and national levels issued as the coronavirus initially spread across the U.S. in the spring — including initially saying that people didn’t need masks — has fed skepticism of the current orders and recommendations.
As an example of conflicting information, the Wyoming Department of Health continues to report a substantially higher number of active cases in the county than Billin. For instance, on Monday, he counted 133 active cases in the county, while the state reported 306.
Part of the reason for the gap is that Park County officials have more up-to-date data on when people are infected and recover, but Billin said last week that the state’s database also contains errors. He described recently finding roughly 100 people who had been counted as active cases multiple times — including one person who’d been entered four times.
“I believe our local numbers are more accurate,” he said, adding that the state “is working on cleaning up the database.”
In the meantime, “it takes hours to search the database for duplications and empty entries before doing each update,” Billin said Tuesday.
Despite the discrepancy regarding active infections, both state and county officials have reported very similar numbers of the total number of cases. For example, Billin reported 1,118 lab-confirmed cases on Monday and the Department of Health listed 1,104 cases on Tuesday.
Most people infected with COVID-19 suffer mild to moderate symptoms and recover on their own, but it can cause serious illness, posing a higher risk to those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions.
Among more than 1,200 confirmed and probable cases recorded in Park County since the start of the pandemic, there have been six deaths — including two additional deaths that were officially confirmed by the Department of Health on Monday. Billin had announced those deaths on Nov. 14, but it takes time for death certificates to be finalized and submitted to the state.