SUBLETTE COUNTY — According to a press release from the Sublette COVID-19 Response Group, the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Sublette County has begun to decline, but this may be temporary. The county continues to experience stress on the local healthcare system, and the Sublette COVID-19 Response Group urges the public to take action now to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the county.
In recent weeks the global pandemic and national emergency has reached deep into Sublette County’s communities, including to emergency responders who have either contracted the virus or were quarantined because of close contacts with a positive case. This reach has extended to personnel providing health care, law enforcement, rescue, and firefighting services in Sublette County. This strain has in some cases resulted in a shortage of available staff for the agencies involved.
The Wyoming Department of Health reported on Wednesday, October 7, that Sublette County has had a total of 127 cases, with 24 active, 102 recoveries, and 1 death. Sublette County Public Health reported there were 60 people in isolation or quarantine in the Big Piney, Boulder, Daniel, and Pinedale areas. Isolation keeps someone who is infected with the virus away from others. Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others.
Clinic Testing Update:
Sublette County recorded 51 new cases in the last two weeks of September, and another 10 cases this first week of October. The Sublette County Rural Health Care District medical clinics have been busy testing symptomatic patients, as well as close contacts to known positive cases, with testing available daily at both medical clinics Monday through Friday.
A recent change in federal regulations requires that all COVID-19 tests be confirmed by the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, and all patients are instructed to stay home, monitor your health, and maintain social distancing until the test results are received back from the state lab. Testing for all children 18 and younger who are symptomatic is free of charge. For symptomatic adults with health insurance, your health insurance will be billed for the test. Free testing is also available for symptomatic adults who do not have insurance, and for close contacts of positive cases through a voucher system from Sublette County Public Health (SCPC).
The SCPH office is conducting contact tracing. If you test positive for COVID-19, you can expect a call from a contact tracer within 24 hours of that test result. Governor Mark Gordon has activated the Wyoming National Guard to assist in contact tracing in the face of the recent statewide surge in cases.
Meanwhile, to reduce the number of phone calls to public health, general information about the virus and the local situation is available on the dedicated county coronavirus website (sublettewycovid.com). If you can’t find what you are looking for, please use the form on the website to submit your question, and the Response Group will get back to you with an answer. To learn about local services available to assist those impacted by the virus, callers should dial 2-1-1 to speak with a live assistant from 8 am to 6 pm daily from Monday through Friday.
The Red Zone
Using the statewide COVID-19 metrics, for the two weeks from September 21 to October 5, Sublette County has been trending in the “red” or “concerning” area in terms of new cases (up 55%), the percent of cases attributed to community spread (up 26%), and the percent of all tests with a new positive result in the previous two weeks (up 46%).
The public should follow the basic health precautions you’ve heard about for months, including staying home when you are sick, keeping your distance, wearing a face covering, washing your hands, and getting a flu shot.
Since Sublette County does not have a hospital, patients with severe symptoms must seek treatment outside the county, and hospitals in neighboring communities are already stressed. On Tuesday, there were no available intensive care unit (ICU) beds available at Star Valley Health in Afton, at Sage Health West in Lander, and only one ICU bed available at Evanston Regional Hospital. Billings, Montana, hospitals have reached capacity and are now sending patients to smaller facilities throughout the state, as well as transferring Wyoming patients back to Wyoming.
The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) reported on October 6 there were 44 people hospitalized in Wyoming with COVID-19, the highest patient count since the pandemic began. The WHD count did not include nine coronavirus patients at St. John’s Health in Jackson, so the actual count is at least 53. It’s not just the added number of patients in hospitals that cause an impact on the hospital system though: St. John’s reported on Monday that 22 staff members were in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19.
Teton County Public Health announced yesterday that the county had reached the Red Zone (“High Risk”) as well, in four key areas: new cases, community spread, hospital admissions, and contact tracing capability, prompting the local health department to issue a community warning yesterday about stresses on the health system: “This means we have widespread transmission of COVID-19 in our community and stress on our healthcare system. Additionally, we are currently maxing out our contact tracing capabilities.”
Eastern Idaho hospitals also report a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations, with 29 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on Tuesday, including 6 in ICU, and 26 of the hospital’s 35 ICU beds occupied. Utah hospitals are in a similar situation with near-record peaks in hospitalizations, and 67% of ICU beds currently occupied.
It’s Personal and Public
In light of the existing strain to the healthcare system, the Sublette COVID-19 Response Group urges the public to renew your commitment to taking action now to curb the spread of this virus in the county, to keep from overwhelming our healthcare system, to protect essential workers, and to keep our schools and economy open. Please take personal responsibility for protecting the public’s health and economy.