SUBLETTE COUNTY– The Sublette County COVID-19 Response Group gave an update today in which they expressed frustrations with testing limitations for COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Sublette County currently has one confirmed COVID-19 case. As of today, the county has had 30 tests done with five pending.
Though Sublette County remains at one confirmed COVID-19 case, Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons, Sublette County Health Officer, said he believes there are more cases they are not able to confirm due to limited testing capabilities.
“We feel pretty sure that there’s more than on positive (case) here. As we talk to more people, they seem to have symptoms that are consistent with (COVID-19),” Dr. Fitzsimmons said.
Janna Lee, Public Health Nurse Manager, outlined the Wyoming Department of Health’s (WDH) testing priorities, which are in accordance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
She explained that yesterday, the WDH announced the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory will only be testing for the following patients due to testing supply shortages:
- Hospitalized patients
- Healthcare facility workers with symptoms
- Patients in long-term care facilities with symptoms
- Patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms
- Patients with underlying conditions with symptoms
- First responders with symptoms
- Pregnant women with symptoms
Though testing supplies are scarce nationwide, Dr. Fitzsimmons said the testing restrictions have been frustrating to deal with.
“Testing has been a problem for us, and it’s been a problem for everyone everywhere, and it continues to be so. We all find this very frustrating. We were expecting this to improve but it really hasn’t so far and as a matter of fact, as it stands with the (Wyoming) Health Department, these guidelines have become more mandatory,” Dr. Fitzsimmons said.
With limitations in testing, Dr. Fitzsimmons said the mitigation strategies Sublette County has been doing, such as social distancing, are even more important now. Since surrounding counties have had much wider spread, he said it is important to continue to try to slow the spread in Sublette County to keep their numbers down.
Lee explained since testing capabilities are limited, they are asking people who are exhibiting symptoms to self quarantine. If residents have been asked to go into quarantine, clinic staff will contact them every few days to ensure they are not becoming more sick and to make sure they have groceries and other needs.
Additionally, if someone is believed to have been in contact with a positive case for more than 10 minutes, either the Sublette County Public Health will reach out to them and tell them to quarantine, or the state will.
Lee said the 10 minute guideline is not always followed, as they are learning some people may be passing the virus on days before they show any symptoms.
Dr. Fitzsimmons said that if people who believe they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 should call the clinic, even if testing isn’t available for them. The clinic is keeping track of people who may be showing symptoms and will stay in touch with individuals and offer advice.
Use of Masks
Since so little is known about COVID-19, the question of whether masks are useful or not has been up in the air. However, Dr. Fitzsimmons said that they are now thinking masks may help asymptomatic people who have contracted the virus unknowingly from spreading the virus.
Dr, Fitzsimmons said if people have access to masks, that they should wear them when in public simply because they may have some benefit, thought they don’t know how much. He said he is wearing masks in public in case he is carrying the virus with no symptoms.
“It’s something we can do for each other that might be beneficial, it’s a little hard to say how much, but if nothing else, it shows you care,” he said.
The masks do not have to be N95 masks to be helpful, according to Dr. Fitzsimmons. Cloth or other materials will serve the purpose.
The full update has been included below: