(Photos) Health experts, officials heckled during special COVID meeting on Monday in Casper - Casper, WY Oil City News
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(Photos) Health experts, officials heckled during special COVID meeting on Monday in Casper

Members of a crowd argue with health experts and country officials during a joint special meeting of the Natrona County Commission and City of Casper at Casper College on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The meeting, which was streamed live and intended to give information on the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, immediately devolved into a shouting match between officials and audience members. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Health and elected officials were somber, and a restless crowd vocal. Then things got ugly.

On Monday afternoon, health experts from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department and the Natrona County Health Board were joined by elected officials from the Natrona County Commission and Casper City Council for a special meeting addressing the steep surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The meeting was streamed live on YouTube.

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Members of a crowd argue with health experts and country officials during a joint special meeting of the Natrona County Commission and City of Casper at Casper College on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The meeting, which was streamed live and intended to give information on the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, immediately devolved into a shouting match between officials and audience members. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

As infectious disease expert and county health officer Dr. Mark Dowell spoke, members of the small but vocal crowd decided to speak up.

“Please, please please, this is not political. Please don’t make it political,” said Dowell, which then set off a series of jeers, heckles and shouts that eventually morphed into chants of “USA! USA! USA!”

County Commissioner Rob Hendry then stood up to try and calm the crowd, imploring the crowd to listen to the experts to no avail.

The remainder of the meeting moved on in a similar fashion, with each person on stage eventually shouted over.

City officials and health experts are increasingly sounding the alarm as COVID hospitalizations rapidly increase in the state and the county. On Monday they attempted to warn that so many cases so rapidly would quickly overwhelm the medical system, putting people with other ailments at risk as beds around the region fill up.

They were repeatedly dismissed by the crowd, who say they are resisting any government intrusion into their lives.

Infectious disease specialist and Natrona County Health Officer Ghazi A. Ghanem, M.D., attempts to talk about the surge of COVID-19 cases in the county to a hostile crowd during a special meeting on Monday at Casper College. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The most recent flashpoint concerns masks, which medical experts say help contain the spread of the virus.

“(They say) we’re taking away their Constitutional rights,” said Hendry after he abruptly adjourned the meeting.

“I get it, but if it’s a health crisis and we’re talking about people dying here, that’s a real crisis. Maybe masks won’t work, but what are we going to do, how are we going to slow the spread.”

“We wanted the information out, and we didn’t get it out. I think it’s too bad, but that’s the way it is.”

Vocal groups denying the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt a meeting with county health experts and officials on Monday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Wyoming Medical Center interim CEO James Bleicher, M.D., at right, reaches for notes before addressing a hostile crowd at a meeting about COVID-19 on Monday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
County health experts and officials attempt to talk during a contentious public meeting on Monday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Natrona County Commissioner Paul Bertoglio argues with attendees of a special meeting on COVID-19 at Casper College on Monday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Natrona County Commissioner Paul Bertoglio argues with attendees of a special meeting on COVID-19 at Casper College on Monday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry talks after abruptly ending a special public meeting on the COVID-19 situation in Casper on Monday. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)


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: covid@cnchd.org


  • 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.