CASPER, Wyo. — The Natrona County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is a joint center involving a number of agencies in the area, have set up temporary “community medical shelters” at both the Casper Events Center and the former Westwood school facility in Casper as part of their COVID-19 response.
Sean Ellis, representative of the EOC’s Joint Information Center, clarified the purpose of these shelters in a phone interview on Wednesday, April 8. Ellis noted that the Westwood facility has already been used to shelter some patients.
“Yes, there are patients that come and go,” he said.
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The EOC have plans in place to use the shelters for at least two purposes. The first purpose is to shelter people in the community who are awaiting results of COVID-19 testing.
Ellis explained that the shelters can be for anyone in the community who needs a place to self-isolate while they await these results. That has included members of the homeless population as well as Wyoming Behavioral Institute patients.
Ellis noted that the shelters are available not only to people who don’t have homes, but to those who may not have an appropriate environment to self-isolate at home. He gave the example of someone awaiting COVID-19 testing living with elderly parents at home.
Such people could be housed at these shelters to ensure the virus does not spread to vulnerable household members, should an individual have the virus.
So far, the Westwood community medical shelter has only been used to house patients awaiting COVID-19 testing. But Ellis says that separate areas have also been planned at the shelters for people who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t have somewhere they can appropriately self-isolate.
He added that a determination would be made should someone test positive for COVID-19 whether these shelters are the appropriate place for them to self-isolate, or whether there is another place they would be located.
Ellis said that determination includes a variety of factors which include what symptoms a person is experiencing, their ability to care for themselves, whether they have a place of their own to safely self-isolate and whether they have vulnerable household members, if they do have a home.
Ellis noted that the areas in which people are sheltered at these facilities are completely re-sanitized and cleaned after a patient moves out.
He added that on the medical side, the shelters are currently being staffed by the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, noting that security measures are also in place.
The Casper City Council authorized $75,000 toward the EOC for COVID-19 response efforts, including for the community medical shelters during their Tuesday, April 7 meeting. That is in addition to $50,000 the city had already committed.
Ellis explained that the funding provided by the city will be used as needed by the EOC.
While the city council talked about $25,000 of the funding going toward paying volunteer medical staff at the shelters, Ellis says that call for volunteers is something the EOC is still discussing.
He said that across the nation, some communities have looked to give some level of funding to medical volunteers assisting in COVID-19 response efforts. The EOC has not yet officially called for volunteers for the shelters and have not decided whether they would allocate funding to give such volunteers some amount of funding.
The Natrona County EOC consists of the following agencies:
- City of Casper
- Casper-Natrona County Health Department
- Natrona County
- Town of Evansville
- Town of Mills
- Casper College
- Wyoming Rescue Mission
- Casper-Natrona County International Airport
- Natrona County School District
- Casper Mountain Fire Department
- Wyoming Medical Center
- Wyoming Department of Transportation
- Natrona County Fire
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: firstname.lastname@example.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.