CASPER, Wyo. – Organizers at Casper’s Meals on Wheels are used to helping some of Natrona County’s most vulnerable citizens.
Now as the threat of COVID-19 spreads, the organization that delivers hot, fresh meals to elderly and homebound people is taking extra steps to protect them.
“We have many concerns,” said Andrea Trout, route coordinator at Meals on Wheels.
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In addition to protecting the elderly population they serve, many of the roughly 40 volunteer are of retirement age.
For younger people, the highly contagious COVID-19 brings symptoms ranging from cold to flu-like, but it is mostly recoverable.
However, for older adults or those with preexisting medical conditions, it can be deadly.
Trout says Meals on Wheels follows protocols with hand washing and limiting exposure to sick people as a matter of course, but the risk of coronavirus causes extra concern.
“We would love to provide hand sanitizer and wipes to all of our volunteers, but we can’t find them,” she said. Drivers are encouraged to wash their hands more regularly, she said.
“Our drivers know that if they are coughing or have symptoms that they shouldn’t come here anyway,” said Trout, but she says more drivers called in sick today than usual.
“I think we’re probably being cautious, but we’re also a little paranoid about a little cough or a sneeze.”
She said that some of their clients have temporarily stopped delivery to reduce outside contact, but that number could be matched by new clients who may want to avoid exposure at grocery stores.
As concern for coronavirus increased, the organization took the proactive step of ordering up to 14-days worth of shelf-stable meals for each of the 450 clients they serve in Natrona County.
“In the event that (clients) are quarantined or that we’re forced to close for a certain period of time, we would rather be safe than sorry,” she said.
Trout says there have been no reports of Meals on Wheels in other communities that have been forced to stop operating due to coronavirus.
One of the more common practices during the outbreak has been to eliminate driver-to-client exposure by leaving a meal in an outside cooler. Another option the organization is preparing for is to reduce delivery to once-a-week with frozen or shelf-stable meals.
“We do serve people that the two meals we send them a day, that’s all they have to eat,” said Trout.
In response to dramatic shortages of essential supplies, Trout says they plan on surveying clients on Monday for needs that go beyond food.
Meals on Wheels will accept public donations of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned goods to distribute to their clients, said Trout.
“We hope to be able to provide whatever we can to get them through this,” said Trout.
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.