Don’t let the low numbers for known cases of coronavirus in Park County and Wyoming lull you into complacency and any false sense of security.
That’s the message of plain talk opinion pieces in this newspaper today, and last week, offered to the community by direct primary care physicians Dean Bartholomew and Mike Tracy of 307Health in Powell.
The numbers are low — 26 test-confirmed cases in the state and one in Park County at last count — but those figures don’t tell a complete story. That’s because the Wyoming Department of Health has not yet conducted widespread testing in the state. When you don’t test, the number of identified cases doesn’t go up.
That should not be taken, Dr. Tracy writes, as an indication that COVID-19 is not in our communities. He and other physicians know the virus spreads quietly and that if we had more testing, we’d have a more realistic picture of what’s going on.
Dr. Aaron Billin, the Park County health officer, has been tirelessly driving home the same points in interviews, emails, public notices and posts to social media. He’s been working seemingly around the clock to help inform and protect our community, stressing the importance of social distancing.
Dr. Billin has been cheered to have several days go by with no new confirmed cases in Park County — and he thinks the dramatic changes that residents and businesses have made to their daily routines are making a difference. But we’re by no means out of the woods.
“We believe that there are other people who have the virus that have not been diagnosed yet,” Dr. Billin wrote on Saturday night, adding, “This is why people need to stay home if they are sick.”
There’s a behavioral downside to the low number of confirmed cases. If people believe the risk is still low and there’s not much of the disease around, they may fall victim to complacency and go on with activities that could ultimately contribute to overwhelming the medical system.
Dr. Tracy is clear on that point: The only way to curb the disease is social distancing— keeping people separated to mitigate the spread.
Dr. Billin has similarly implored community members to take COVID-19 and social distancing seriously, noting on Friday that cases in the U.S. were on pace to begin doubling each day.
Listen to what Dr. Billin is saying and read the op-ed by Dr. Tracy on this page in today’s Powell Tribune. The op-ed by Dr. Bartholomew was published in the March 17 Tribune.