Local Health Officials Speak Out About COVID-19

Local Health Officials Speak Out About COVID-19

Sweetwater County Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon spoke to the media about the importance of social distancing in Sweetwater County. Photo from Sweetwater Government YouTube video.

SWEETWATER COUNTY — Local health officials from Sweetwater County took questions from the media in regards to the novel COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday afternoon.

Sweetwater County Public Health Director Kim Lionberger, Sweetwater County Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon and Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County Incident Commander Kim White fielded questions during the live press conference.

SweetwaterNOW has provided a few highlights from the press conference and also embedded the complete broadcast below.

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First Positive COVID-19 Case in Sweetwater County Details

The first positive COVID-19 case in Sweetwater County was confirmed on Tuesday night. A male in his 40s from Green River tested positive for the virus and has since self-isolated himself.

On Wednesday, the Wyoming Department of Health followed up with a contact investigation which aimed to find out when the man became symptomatic and where he had been when those symptoms occurred.

According to Lionberger, the only known contacts were immediate family who are currently quarantined.

“This individual had not been to work while he was symptomatic,” Lionberger said. “There were not many contact tracings that came back from that case positive. He self-quarantined, he didn’t go anywhere after testing. He did exactly as we asked everyone to do.”

Initially, the individual was sick for a couple of days but was well enough to stay at home. Lionberger stated that the individual has a “mild case” of COVID-19.

“It wasn’t a severe respiratory case,” Lionberger said.

“He got it somewhere in our community and we don’t know where that is,” Stachon said. “When it’s community acquired, you know it’s out there.”

“It Depends on the Community”

Dr. Stachon said that she believes there are a few other positive cases in Sweetwater County, however, they haven’t been able to prove it yet. Cases around the country have trended towards doubling every two to three days and Dr. Stachon believes that the number of cases will go up in coming weeks and months.

“In our community we have identified one, but there are more than that,” Dr. Stachon said.

Dr. Stachon stressed the importance of practicing social distancing and claimed that it is vital to defeating the virus in Sweetwater County. Without the participation of everyone in the county, putting an end to COVID-19 will be extremely difficult.

“I think what we are hoping is that the public will get the idea and do what’s right and stay home,” Dr. Stachon said. “Nobody’s going to tell you, you’re just going to choose to do it on your own because it’s the right thing to do.”

When asked about whether businesses should work from home, Dr. Stachon recommended that all businesses should work remotely if possible. She said that her own medical practice has implemented strict policies to avoid contact with people.

“It’s the only way you’re going to contain this in our county,” Dr. Stachon said. “You just assume that you’ve got it or somebody else does and you act like that. You don’t know, you could get sick and have a positive test tomorrow.”

Dr. Stachon said that the county does have an emergency plan in place, but the county will only truly be prepared if the community buys into social distancing.

“We still have people not practicing social distancing, we will never be adequately prepared,” Dr. Stachon said. “This is something that depends on the community. They are more important than the healthcare facilities right now. If the community is not doing these things, then no, we’re not prepared and never will be. It depends on the community.”

Hospital Testing and Supplies

Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is the only place in Sweetwater County that is collecting specimens for testing. Nationwide there is a shortage of supplies and the hospital is no exception.

White said that the hospital has seen an average of around 20 people a day come for swabbing. Those who may be sick or feel like they need testing should call the triage phone number or contact their local physician. The hospital is filtering out those who qualify for testing through the triage line and local physicians.

“Not everyone is getting tested across the board,” White said. “There is limited testing supplies across the nation so we do have to be diligent in who is getting tested. They need to have the symptoms of COVID-19.”

Some of those symptoms include a fever, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath.

As for other supplies like beds and ventilators, the hospital could not provide an accurate number. The hospital said that the number of beds and ventilators is growing but always fluctuating.

According to Lionberger, the turnaround time for testing is improving. On her most recent phone call with the WHD, the state lab only had 25 tests to process.

White said that a new test that takes 45 minutes is expected to be available soon, but that the hospital wouldn’t be given the supplies right away.

“That would go to the hardest hit areas first like New York, Louisiana, California and Washington,” White said.

Nasal swabbing is the only type of COVID-19 testing that is being offered. The hospital can’t currently run the tests.