ROCK SPRINGS — In a discussion with SweetwaterNOW, Sweetwater County Public Health Director Kim Lionberger wanted to clarify what public health meant when it sent out a press release on August 7, asking residents to provide lodging for COVID-19 Coronavirus travelers stuck in the county after testing positive for the virus and are too sick to travel.
Lionberger said after the press release was published by local media outlets the complaints started coming into public health. What was meant to be a release asking for the public’s help, ended in backlash which continued throughout this week.
The call for help was misinterpreted, she said. Most of the comments made to the department were centered around why public health would want residents to house COVID-19 positive patients in their homes.
This wasn’t the intent of the release at all, she said.
“We would never expect or ask anyone to put a COVID-positive patient in their home,” Lionberger said. “We are sorry people took it that way.”
Due to quarantine orders in place, public health has to find lodging for any traveler who tests positive while in Sweetwater County.
Lionberger said she just wanted to inform the public that unlike Uinta and Teton counties, Sweetwater County doesn’t have any hotels or motels willing to take COVID-19 positive patients.
“We don’t have a single hotel here that will house them,” Lionberger said.
She said knowing this and with having trouble in the past trying to find places for COVID-19 positive travelers to be housed, it was suggested that public health ask the community for help.
The community is always really good about helping those who are in need, she said.
“Ideally, if there was a hotel or motel in the community that would be our first choice,” Lionberger said.
So far, public health has dealt with a handful of travelers, from truck drivers and seasonal employees to hitch hikers and homeless transients, stuck here after testing positive for COVID-19. Most of them are just too sick to leave and so they are forced to stay in Sweetwater County until they are strong enough to return home, she said.
Lionberger said public health will pay for the COVID-19 positive patients’ hotel room, meals, and cleaning of the hotel room after they leave. She said they would never put anyone at risk of catching the virus.
If public health can’t find a hotel or motel to help them, they wanted to see if residents who have furnished rental properties would be willing to provide lodging for the COVID-19 positive patient. She said they would come up with a memorandum of understanding with the property owner. In this option, public health would pay for lodging, meals, and cleaning of the rental property.
The third option would be to see if a resident has a camper trailer at the KOA the COVID-19 patient could use. However, this option isn’t as ideal because it involves a person’s private property and there could be come legal issues surrounding this option, but public health will work through all of this if someone is interested.
Lionberger said she wants residents to know she isn’t talking about a lot of travelers who need this service. Just a couple here and there. However, it’s still causing the health department to scramble to find proper accommodations every time a traveler tests positive for the virus and is stuck here.
Anyone who has spare accommodations and is willing to temporarily house one of these individuals while they are under quarantine order is urged to please contact Community Nursing at (307) 922-5390 for more information.