Wyoming looks to beef up long-term care facility COVID-19 testing - Cheyenne, WY Cap City News
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Wyoming looks to beef up long-term care facility COVID-19 testing

Photo taken by Dan Cepeda (Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said during a Wednesday, May 20 press conference that the state is looking to increase COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities.

She noted that older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of severe illness when contracting the virus. Wyoming saw the first outbreak of the virus in a Worland nursing home reported on Sunday.

“That’s why we are starting a proactive testing program focused on Wyoming’s long-term care facilities,” Harrist said. “This effort involves two primary approaches. First, we are asking facilities without a current outbreak to collect sample of at least 20% of residents and staff every two weeks. Samples can be tested either through commercial laboratories or through the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory. We will work with facilities to help set up a plan that works best for them.”

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Harrist noted that testing would help ensure that outbreaks are detected as early as possible.

“The earlier we identify a potential trouble spot, the more we can take action to limit spread,” she said.

Harrist added that at facilities where a staff or resident has tested positive, the state is asking that all staff and residents be tested on a weekly basis.

“This strategy can offer us a powerful tool to intervene as early as possible in outbreaks in both nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” she said. “We have seen when a small or single number of symptomatic cases are identified, there may be a many additional asymptomatic or mild cases in residents and staff.”

Harrist added that there is “substantial evidence that asymptomatic person and persons with mild illness contribute to transmission within these facilities.”

“More testing in these settings helps us limit and control the outbreak with action such as grouping staff and residents and limiting interaction between those groups and using isolation and quarantine strategies,” she said.

She noted that the state has increased testing capacity to help facilitate the approaches she described.

Harrist reiterated comments from Governor Mark Gordon regarding the importance of wearing face coverings and following social distancing guidelines.

“Wearing a face coverings right now is one important measure that we can take to help protect Wyoming residents who may be more vulnerable than ourselves,” she said. “We can’t always tell by looking or know who among the people we are in contact with might be at greater risk. We also can’t know for sure if we are spreading the virus because that can start before we feel symptoms.”

“Face coverings aren’t complicated and they aren’t medical masks. They can be any cloth items that covers the nose and mouth while still allowing you to breath. Wearing face coverings in certain setting is a simple step we can all take to protect others.”

She said this is something everyone in the state can do to help.

“Let’s all do our part to keep Wyoming on the right path and stay focused on the goals of slowing and limiting the spread of disease in our state,” Harrist said.

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.