CHEYENNE, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK)-Research into a previously identified case of coronavirus in Wyoming Friday has sparked significant new concerns.
Wyoming Department of Health officials now say the case signals potential local community spread and special attention to prevention measures related to long-term care.
Lab testing confirmed the adult Fremont County case was Wyoming's second case of COVID-19. The older adult male is a patient at Sage West Health Care in Lander. He is a resident of Showboat Retirement Center, also in Lander.
As state and county offficials conduct interviews at both facilities, they will recommend testing and other actions to protect residents, patients, and staff.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist said community spread means potential spread of an illness for the which the source of the infection is not known. "Our initial follow-up with this individual found nothing that could be explained other than potential community spread of this virus in the Lander area," said Harrist.
“We’re reminding everyone of how genuinely critical it is to do their part,” Harrist said. “Take common-sense steps to avoid sharing your germs with others, especially with those who are more vulnerable to serious illness.” WDH staff will be available to consult as local officials consider decisions about public events and other community-related activities.
The case emphasizes the protection of older residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living centers. “This is probably our top concern and priority. There are things we don’t yet fully understand about this disease, but it is clear that older people are among those at the very highest risk of severe illness,” she said.
According to the Health Department, the federal government regulates nursing homes, while the state has a more prominent role with assisted living centers. “The living environments are different between the two types of facilities as well,” Harrist said. “But we want as much protection as possible for residents of both types.”
“We have seen very restrictive guidelines issued recently from the federal government for nursing homes and I am recommending the same practices for Wyoming’s assisted living centers,” she said.
The nursing home guidelines say there should be no visitors or non-essential healthcare personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation.
Once again the department suggests:
Avoid close contact with sick people.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
Stay home if sick.
Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Symptoms reported with this disease are familiar: fever, cough and shortness of breath. Experts believe COVID-19 spreads mostly between people who are in close contact and through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most ill with obvious symptoms.