An older man in Johnson County became the first person in Wyoming to die in connection with the new coronavirus, state health officials reported Monday.
The man “had health conditions that …
An older man in Johnson County became the first person in Wyoming to die in connection with the new coronavirus, state health officials announced Monday.
The Wyoming Department of Health said the patient “had health conditions that put him at higher risk of severe illness and complications related to COVID-19.”
The man died "late last week" at the Johnson County Healthcare Center hospital in Buffalo, according to a Monday news release from the center. The healthcare organization said the man had been hospitalized for one day prior to his death and had "serious underlying medical conditions and comorbidities." Johnson County Healthcare Center officials said they took "appropriate measures" to protect their staff and others who encountered the patient and that follow-up efforts were underway, including identyfing the man's close contacts.
“This is a sad development we hoped we wouldn’t see in Wyoming and we want this person’s family to know they have our sympathy,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “The advice we’ve been offering and actions we’ve taken ultimately come down to preventing as many serious illnesses and deaths connected to this disease as we can.”
There were 275 confirmed and 98 probable cases of COVID-19 reported across Wyoming as of noon on Monday. Wyoming had been the only state in the country without a death due to the respiratory disease, with 138 documented recoveries through Sunday.
Gov. Mark Gordon, who is from Johnson County, said Monday that he was saddened to learn of Wyoming’s first death to COVID-19.
“This one was close to home and sadly serves as a grim reminder of the importance of following public health orders and guidance so we can reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in our state,” Gordon said in a statement. The governor said he and First Lady Jennie Gordon “extend our thoughts and prayers to this gentleman’s family and friends.”
Johnson County Healthcare Center CEO Sean McCallister also expressed the organization's sympathies to the patient's family and friends.
“While we have yet to experience the magnitude of outbreak in Johnson County as some larger cities across the U.S., a related death is very sobering,” McCallister said.
Across the country, more than 568,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, with 22,935 deaths attributed to the disease as of midday Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Health officials have said that the pandemic is not expected to peak in Wyoming until late April or early May.
Park County continues to have only one confirmed case, but County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin has repeatedly warned that are almost certainly other local cases that have not been diagnosed.
A Big Horn County resident tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, becoming that county’s first confirmed patient. That individual had been seen at West Park Hospital Emergency Room in Cody on Wednesday — where the test sample was collected — and is now in self-quarantine at their home in Big Horn County, Billin said.
Harrist said anyone can get sick and has a chance of developing a serious illness with COVID-19 — and anyone who is sick can pass it on to others. Symptoms reported with COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
“While we’ve learned most people who are infected are able to recover at home without medical care, we also know people who are aged 65 and older and people who have medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and weak immune systems are more likely to experience complications and become severely ill,” Harrist said.
The department is encouraging Wyomingites to: follow current public health orders, including staying home as much as possible; stay home when sick and avoid contact with others unless seeking medical attention; and follow common-sense steps such as washing hands often and well; covering coughs and sneezes; and cleaning and disinfecting.
More information about COVID-19 and updates are available on the Wyoming Department of Health website.