CASPER, Wyo. – Wyoming health officials say there is no direct evidence linking a recent jump in Wyoming COVID-19 cases to protests against racial injustice and police brutality earlier this month.
On Thursday, the Wyoming Department of Health announced 36 new lab confirmed COVID cases in the state, the largest one-day number since the pandemic started.
In Natrona County, the number jumped by nine on Thursday.
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While many speculated on social media that the protests for George Floyd could be the cause, there appears to be little or no evidence to support the claim according to health officials.
“We are unaware of any reported cases in Wyoming being tied to recent protest activity,” said Wyoming Health Department Public Information Officer Kim Deti in an email to Oil City News on Friday.
Casper-Natrona County Health Department spokesperson Hailey Bloom echoed Deti’s statement, saying there hasn’t been “any correlation that we can see at this point.”
Bloom says the department is currently contact tracing recent cases, but they have not found any cases directly related to protest events.
She did add that as the public’s increased activity is making it more difficult to track down specific exposure compared to previous months. Most of nine Natrona County cases announced on Thursday were attributed to “community transmission.”
Health officials have been monitoring Floyd protests nationally and expressed concern that such large numbers of people could be spreading the virus.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms can become apparent on average anywhere from five to six days after exposure, but can sometimes take up to 14 days. The protests mostly fall within the timeline, but so far there doesn’t appear to be any directly related spikes.
A study published earlier this week National Bureau of Economic Research that used smartphone tracking data to monitor people’s movements found no increase in virus spread during the protests.
“We find no evidence that net COVID-19 case growth differentially rose following the onset of Black Lives Matter protests, and even modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline,” said the paper.
The authors of the paper theorized any spread from the protests was offset at least in part by other people staying home specifically because of the protests.
“It’s certainly possible that there is probably a small increase in cases among the protesting population,” Dhaval Dave, an economics professor at Bentley University and one of the authors of the paper, told NBC News. However, “when we look at the population of the counties as a net, there does not seem to have been significant community spread and no significant increase at all in overall cases at the population level.”
According to KQED, there appears to be no direct connection to COVID levels and the large protests that occurred in the San Fransisco area.
A health official told KQED that outdoor settings and mask-wearing by most protesters likely helped keep virus spread in check.
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: email@example.com
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.