SWEETWATER COUNTY — Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County CEO Irene Richardson spoke on the rising number of COVID-19 Coronavirus cases in the county during the public comment section of the Sweetwater County Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.
Richardson said COVID-19 has hit Sweetwater County very hard in the past few weeks. On October 28, the county had 480 positive cases. On November 5 that number increased to 663, and as of November 16, the county had 1,075 positive cases.
That rise in cases from October 28 to November 16 is a 124 percent increase, according to Richardson.
“We have had more than doubled the cases in just 19 days,” she said.
Before October 28, the county’s positivity rate was 5 percent. That increased to 25 percent by November 5. Now, as of November 16, the county’s positivity rate is 31 percent.
“These are big numbers and big increases,” Richardson said.
Healthcare professionals are projecting that if nothing is done to address the rising numbers, there will be another 1,333 positive cases by December 3, and another 1,652 cases by December 21.
“That is if we don’t do anything about these numbers and keep doing what we’re doing without making any changes,” Richardson said.
Richardson emphasized making small sacrifices to prevent a big disaster later. She said it is known that masks work in reducing and preventing spread of infectious diseases.
“We know that wearing masks works. It’s what healthcare workers have used and continue to use in the hospital where we are treating a highly infectious disease and to prevent the spread of that disease,” she said.
Richardson said she is asking the community to take the steps to wear masks and practice social distancing and good hygiene to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. She said COVID-19 is “real and it’s scary, and it’s something you don’t want to get”.
“I’m going to ask everyone to please spend that ounce of prevention by wearing a mask and practice social distancing so we don’t have to pay that much larger price of what is it stake if we don’t,” she said.
With the many disagreements over the pandemic, Richardson said now is not the time to debate those disagreements. Rather, now is the time to fight against COVID-19 as a whole community.
“There may be people who disagree, but this is not a time to take it up with each other or debate whether who was wrong or right. Now is the time to take as many precautions as we can so that we can take it up with COVID,” Richardson said.
COVID-19 Informational Meeting Recap
On Monday, elected officials from Sweetwater County, Green River, and Rock Springs were invited to a COVID-19 Coronavirus informational meeting hosted by Sweewater County Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon.
The commissioners discussed that meeting on Tuesday, saying they supported Sweetwater County Public Health and the local healthcare workers. However, Commissioners Roy Lloyd and Jeff Smith both expressed concerns with enforcement of a mask mandate, which Dr. Stachon has applied for a variance with the state to implement one.
Commissioner Smith said he isn’t sure a mandate is going to change anybody’s mind or if it will just overload the court system and put enforcement burdens on law enforcement and businesses.
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld and Commissioner Lloyd also expressed concerns of keeping businesses open amid the rising COVID-19 numbers.
“The numbers are increasing and my concern as we see the numbers increase is how to keep the businesses open,” Lloyd said.
He said it is not just concerns of state-ordered restrictions, but rather having a lack of ability to fully staff a business to keep its doors open.
Commissioner Schoenfeld echoed this concern, saying that it’s not just small businesses, but also the big industry businesses in the community.
“That’s a huge concern for these large industries that are bringing in millions of dollars to our community and employing the majority of the people who work in our community,” Schoenfeld said.
She said there needs to be emphasis on educating the public.
The commissioners all thanked the local healthcare workers for their efforts in keeping the community safe.
“You’re doing an outstanding job for the people of Sweetwater County, and you don’t go unnoticed,” Commissioner Wally Johnson said.
Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling said contact tracing has changed quite a bit as the numbers of new cases has increased, as Public Health simply does not have the staff or time to keep up with the number of tests and cases.
He said the person who tests positive is now responsible for contacting people who they have been in contact with to notify them of possible exposure. Commissioner Lloyd said this is not at the fault of Public Health and does not reflect their abilities, but rather reflects the overburden they are experiencing.
Commissioner Smith echoed Richardson’s sentiments in that this is not an issue of taking sides against each other, but is about fighting a common goal of limiting spread of COVID-19.
“This is real. So it’s just a matter of what we want to do, and how much responsibility do we want to take as citizens of our city, our county, our state, to try to combat this,” Commissioner Smith said.