Natrona COVID-19 spike stretches contact tracing resources thin, CNCHD re-evaluating efforts - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Natrona COVID-19 spike stretches contact tracing resources thin, CNCHD re-evaluating efforts

Casper-Natrona County Health Department public information officer Hailey Bloom talks during a Joint Information Center briefing on Friday, March 27. (City of Casper via YouTube)

CASPER, Wyo. — Natrona County has seen has seen 103 total lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, June 30. With a jump in the number of cases in recent weeks, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department (CNCHD) provided an update on their response efforts on Tuesday.

“Since late last week, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department was notified of 11 additional positive COVID-19 cases within Natrona County,” the update said. “Last week, Natrona County saw the largest number of new cases in a one-week period since this pandemic began.”

The department said that due to the situation, their contact tracing and COVID-19 response team are busier than they have ever been since the pandemic began.

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“Due to the substantial increase in cases, limited staff and incredible man hours and resources required to sufficiently contact trace for each new positive case in our community, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department is re-evaluating our efforts to appropriately manage this virus,” the release adds.

The CNCHD says that a majority of the new cases reported in the county in recent weeks “have been of unknown transmission with likelihood of community transmission.”

“Community transmission refers to the exposure and contraction of COVID-19 from somewhere within the community, but specifics of where exposure occurred cannot be narrowed down,” the department explained. “Across the nation, community spread is responsible for increased transmission of COVID-19 within communities through common interactions.”

“As we continue into the summer with more outings and events, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department recommends increased diligence in precautions to prevent likelihood of transmission of COVID-19.”

The update adds that the contact tracing process is “extensive, complex, time intensive and requires timely response.” The CNCHD explained that the contact tracing efforts start after they receive notification from the Wyoming Department of Health of a new confirmed positive case.

“CNCHD then reaches out by phone for an interview with this new case to identify exposure periods and contacts within that exposure window,” the release explained. “Our contact tracing staff depends on the positive case to share as much information as possible to minimize further transmission in our community.”

Contact tracing efforts vary from case to case since each person’s situation is unique.

“[S]omeone with a longer exposure period, who may have worked in a high risk setting, or who attended many outings and events, creates a lengthy list of contacts,” the CNCHD explained. “Many cases have multiple offshoots connecting them to other places or people, weaving an intricate and difficult to narrow down web.”

“It is extremely difficult to determine the order or details of each exposure or connection, especially as more and more community transmission is occurring. Contact tracing and epidemiologic mapping is this capacity is incredibly detailed, extensive, time intensive and requires great epidemiologic training.”

The department said that their staff numbers are limited, but that they are working hard to conduct the contact tracing efforts.

“CNCHD is thankful for the patience and cooperation of our community and partners in this process,” the release adds. “This recent increase in cases is a reminder that COVID-19 is still within Natrona County and can quickly effect our entire community.”

“This is why it is crucial for all of us to continue to follow the recommendations and guidance for limiting transmission of this virus.”

The CNCHD encouraged people to:

  • wash hands often
  • using hand sanitizer when hand washing is unavailable
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • stay home if you are sick
  • practicing social distancing
  • use cloth face coverings when around others and in public
  • cover coughs and sneezes
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

“If you are experiencing flu like symptoms, have new loss of taste or smell, or have had direct contact with a known positive case, please seek testing through the Casper-Natrona County Health Department by calling 307-577 9892 or the Wyoming Medical Center by calling 307-233-7288,” the release added.

The CNCHD reiterated a commitment to sharing information with the public about the COVID-19 situation.

“Our communications will continue to be focused on transparency and ensuring our community has the valuable information needed to ensure their safety, and the safety of others as we navigate through this pandemic,” they said.

Further information on COVID-19 in Wyoming is available from the Wyoming Department of Health.

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:

  • 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.