Wyoming health official concerned about Trump's suggestion to ease COVID restrictions early - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Wyoming health official concerned about Trump’s suggestion to ease COVID restrictions early

Natrona County Health Officer and infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Dowell talks during a press conference after deciding to cancel state basketball tournaments on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

President Trump mentioned western states while discussing his plan to ease restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 during a press conference on Thursday.

The guidelines, titled “Opening Up America Again,” use three phases with specific state-by-state criteria that must be met before easing restrictions.

Asked if the regulations of 30-day mitigation efforts to stop the spread are still in place or have been replaced by the new guidance, President Trump said it depends on the state.

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Trump was asked specifically about a number of states that seem to meet the criteria set up in the first phase, which includes Wyoming, Montana and Utah among others.

“Well they’re going to be in place to a large extent, and it also depends on the governors and what they want to do,” said Trump.

“You have very different states, you’ve got Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, that’s a lot different than New York, it’s a lot different than New Jersey. So it’s going to depend on the governor.”

Trump said he had talked directly with governors of states, but he did not say who specifically.

States that meet the first phase can go “literally tomorrow,” said Trump.

“We’re recommending certain things be in place, dependent on what the governor wants to do. If we see something wrong, we will be expressing ourselves very strongly,” he said.

As of Thursday evening, Wyoming governor Mark Gordon had not announced any changes in the state’s coronavirus health orders.

Each phase spelled out in the Trump administration’s plan eases social distancing restrictions piece by piece.

Phase one already meets most of Wyoming’s current guidelines, including no more than 10 people in groups, minimizing non-essential travel, and keeping schools closed.

The phase does include reopening sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues and churches with “strict physical distancing protocols.” Elective surgeries would also be allowed, which have been banned in order to preserve personal protection equipment (PPE).

The fight to slow COVID-19’s spread has taken a heavy economic toll, with unemployment levels reaching those of the Great Depression.

When reached by phone on Thursday evening, Natrona County Officer Dr. Mark Dowell told Oil City he believes it’s much too early to think about easing social distancing restrictions in the state.

“It’s very concerning to me,” he said.

“We’re still seeing new cases, and we are concerned that we have not flattened the Wyoming curve,” he said. “So we want to make sure that we don’t prematurely loosen things and endanger the health of our citizens.”

As of Thursday, Wyoming has a total of 296 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. The number in Natrona County is 37. Globally, the virus has killed more than 144,000 people.

Dowell says what he’s seen of the president’s “phase one” still requires weeks of declining cases before considering easing restrictions. “I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.

The IHME model used by the White House predicts Wyoming coronavirus cases to peak on May 5.

Ultimately the decision is up to state health officer Alexia Harrist and governor Mark Gordon, said Dowell, but he would not recommend it.

“It’s tough when we’re seeing patients admitted to the hospital with this to think that we’re ready to loosen much.”

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.