Park County’s second case of COVID-19 was detected at Powell Valley Healthcare on Monday, health officials say.
“The patient was not hospitalized, but is quarantined at home,” Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin said in a Facebook post. “This case appears to have been imported from out of state.”
The woman had recently visited a relative who tested positive for the disease, said Park County Public Nurse Manager Bill Crampton, and she began feeling ill not long after arriving home.
Crampton said that preliminary contact tracing indicates that she came straight home from the trip and, outside of a passenger in her vehicle, had no contact with other local residents.
Monday’s positive test at Powell Valley Healthcare came from a rapid testing machine and material has been sent to the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory to confirm the results.
Assuming the results are confirmed, “it’s an area of concern that we’re going to watch closely,” Crampton said. “And for me, the bigger concern I have is this just demonstrates to the community that we need to be cautious and follow the precautions as they’ve been outlined, because we see what having travelers coming in is going to do for us.”
Up until Monday, Park County had not had a confirmed case since March 17, when a Cody woman tested positive; the woman, an employee at Cody Regional Health, went on to make a full recovery. Further, samples collected from the City of Cody’s sewage on April 28 found no trace of COVID-19, according to recently released results.
Billin said the data “that we have been very successful in our local public health efforts.”
The situation has been changing as state officials have begun relaxing their public health orders in recent days and weeks. Tourists are starting to arrive in Park County as well, with Yellowstone National Park’s East and South entrances reopening on Monday.
Crampton asked business owners, residents and visitors to the area to adhere to public health recommendations about masks, gloves and frequent hand washing. He also said that anyone who is ill “should not go out in the public during this time.”
The woman who was tested at Powell Valley Healthcare’s respiratory clinic on Monday went home to self-quarantine, “just following the typical protocol,” said PVHC spokesman Jim Cannon.
PVHC’s respiratory clinic was specifically set up to screen potential cases of COVID-19 in an effort to keep the novel coronavirus from spreading to other areas of the campus, Cannon said; staffers at the clinic wear personal protective equipment like masks to protect themselves.
“We were definitely ready; we've done a lot of preparation,” Cannon said of the first case at PVHC, adding, “We were anticipating that we would eventually … have somebody test [positive] for it.”
Since the start of the pandemic, about 65 Powell Valley Healthcare patients have been tested, after medical providers suspected they might have the disease. However, until Monday, all of the samples run through the hospital’s Abbott ID NOW rapid testing machine or processed at outside labs had come back negative.
The positive test in Park County comes as some areas of the state have seen an uptick in new cases of COVID-19.
Nine staffers and residents at a Worland nursing home tested positive in the past several days, and two additional cases were detected in Hot Springs County on Monday. That has more than doubled the number of cases in the Big Horn Basin over the past week, rising from nine to 21 cases.
Similarly, after three weeks without a new case, Natrona County has had 13 new coronavirus cases in the last six days, the Casper Star-Tribune reported Tuesday, quoting County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell.
“This increase in cases correlates really well with people not following [the county's safety] recommendations as well as they could,” Dowell said at a news conference.
Fremont County continues to have the most cases in the state, with 203 of Wyoming’s 577 lab-confirmed cases as of Monday.
Officials announced Saturday that a Fremont County resident and member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe had become the eighth person to die in connection with COVID-19. Health department officials said the woman had other health conditions that put her at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill in connection with the novel coronavirus.
On Monday, the Wyoming Department of Health announced that it recently received notice that two Wyoming residents died in other states weeks ago after contracting COVID-19: an older man from Laramie County who died in March and an older woman from Carbon County with existing health conditions who died in late April. That brought the total number of the state’s deaths attributed to the disease to 10.
Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday that his thoughts were with the three families who lost loved ones, calling the deaths “sad reminders of the serious, ongoing impact of COVID-19.”
“I want to urge all Wyoming residents to continue taking the necessary steps to minimize the spread of this virus,” Gordon said.
Department of health officials said it’s common for there to be a lag in notifications from other states — and that COVID-19-related deaths are being counted in the same way that influenza-related deaths are tallied each year.
“In Wyoming, we have instructed medical certifiers such as attending physicians and coroners that COVID-19 should only be reported on death certificates when the disease caused or contributed to a person’s death,” said Guy Beaudoin, deputy state registrar with WDH. “So if someone who happens to be positive for COVID-19 died due to an automobile accident, their passing would not be counted as a coronavirus-related death.”
The overwhelming majority of people infected with the disease recover. As of Monday, 504 Wyomingites who either tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected to have it because of their symptoms and close contact with infected people had recovered. Still, the virus can be deadly — particularly to people who are older or have other health problems.
Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus. They include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.
State and local health officials are encouraging those who suspect they might have COVID-19 to contact their medical provider and potentially undergo testing.