By Joshua Wolfson, Seth Klamann and Brandon Foster
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — The public health orders put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Wyoming will remain in place through at least Sept. 15.
The Wyoming Department of Health on Thursday extended the orders without making changes. The decision leaves in effect a series of restrictions pertaining to restaurants, bars, personal care services like salons and performance spaces. They also require students to wear masks if they can’t maintain 6 feet of separation and place limits on the size of both indoor and outdoor gatherings.
The state has extended its existing health orders several times this summer. Gov. Mark Gordon said he had hoped to eliminate the restrictions earlier this summer, but a surge in cases that began in June prevented that from happening, he told reporters last month.
That surge peaked just before August, then fell for nearly two weeks before rising once again. The state has been averaging 35 confirmed cases per day over the past 14 days, compared with an average of 27 cases per day from July 30 to Aug. 12.
As of Thursday, Wyoming had recorded 3,166 confirmed cases and 556 probable cases. Thirty-seven people have died, including 11 in August — the highest number of fatalities in a month since the pandemic emerged here in March.
In Torrington, several parts of Eastern Wyoming College’s campus have been temporarily closed for deep cleaning after a visitor to campus later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
According to a message posted to the college’s website Thursday, several cosmetology and cosmetology-adjacent facilities will be closed for deep cleaning and will be reopened 24 hours after that process is complete. A student who was accompanied by the visitor has been exposed, and the college is working on contacting those who were in proximity to that student, spokeswoman Tami Afdahl said in an email.
“EWC does require that all students, employees and visitors wear masks in all EWC facilities,” she wrote. “The visitor was accompanying a student while the student was on campus preparing for the start of the semester. Our semester began on Monday, August 24th.”
The college’s incident is the latest school-related incident in Wyoming as students of all levels return to school. Last week, a Torrington High School student tested positive for the virus after attending school, within days of classes beginning again there. Of Goshen County’s 47 confirmed cases, 27.7% have come in the last 10 days — the second highest percentage in the state.
Additionally, a Worland elementary school had its reopening delayed after two staff members tested positive and 10 more were placed in quarantine. Dozens of students and staff members at the University of Wyoming have tested positive, though the vast majority live off campus; classes there will begin in-person for some students at the beginning of September.
Meanwhile, Fremont County health officials Thursday said that about 45 coronavirus cases there are tied to three church-related outbreaks.
One of the outbreaks, which took place in July and August, is still being investigated.
County officials said earlier this week that they knew of two outbreaks tied to churches in the county and that one of the outbreaks resulted in 10-30 cases. Fremont County spokesman Michael Jones didn’t know how many cases were involved in the second outbreak.
“We’re definitely hitting some spikes and it’s all these social gatherings,” Jones said then. “You hate to say churches, but it is family and social gatherings where people are inside and let their guard down.”
The county has confirmed more cases of the coronavirus than any other: 528 — 95 of which remain active. Thirteen of the state’s 37 coronavirus deaths have been attributed to Fremont County, which has had more confirmed cases over the past 10 days (55) than any other Wyoming county.
However, 2.89% of tests in the county have come back positive over the last two weeks, which is down from 4.21% the previous two weeks. One coronavirus patient is currently hospitalized in the county. That number statewide, now at 13, has decreased by seven since Monday.
Fremont County public health officials encouraged people within groups to maintain 6 feet of separation, wear masks and sanitize well.