CORRECTION: Correct Fremont County COVID infection total as of May 2 was 119 County virus total jumps to 119; some biz reopening now permitted

May 3, 2020 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Fremont County 's confirmed coronavirus cases took a sizable jump again Saturday, increasing by nine to stand at 119 -- at the same time gyms, child-care centers, hair salons and other personal care businesses that have been closed for weeks in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were allowed to reopen.

Across Wyoming, cases now number 429.

One week ago Fremont County's total was 76. Wyoming had 362 cases on April 25.

The permission to reopen Friday was accompanied by "specific operating conditions" defined in several new public health orders in Wyoming.

R07;The new orders, released Tuesday in anticipation of FridayR34;'R36;s cutback in restrictions, include limits to the number of patrons allowed inside a reopening business at any given time. The orders also require face coverings for staff, as well as health screenings and special cleaning protocols.

The state has issued guidance to hospitals outlining ways to resume elective surgeries too, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said in a press release. R32;Meanwhile, public health orders limiting public gatherings to 10 people or fewer have been extended through May 15, and anyone entering Wyoming still must self-quarantine for 14 days.

Variance

Gordon noted that businesses are not required to open and are still eligible for coronavirus aid through the Small Business Administration.

He also pointed to provisions allowing county health officers to submit requests for variances to the statewide orders.

During a press conference Friday, Fremont County public health officer Brian Gee said he will not approve any exceptions to statewide public health orders on behalf of local businesses until after May 15.

He explained his decision to "comply with the state recommendations and not to loosen them further" by referring to the metrics he has been following throughout the course of the coronavirus emergency in Fremont County.

"These include total hospital bed capacity, intensive care unit bed capacity, testing capacity within the community, (personal protective equipment) supply within the community, also total reported COVID-19 hospitalizations ... and lack of recent outbreaks in communal settings such as nursing homes," Gee said. "All these metrics, as well as new case numbers and the percent of all tests that were positive, were carefully considered in the decision-making process."

Positive tests

Out of 2,783 people tested in Fremont County, Gee said there were 108 confirmed cases as of Friday morning.

"That puts us at about a 4 percent positivity rate," he said.

The number is down from last month, when more than 15 percent of all tests were coming back positive in Fremont County. But Gee said the higher number was a result of limited testing capacity at that time.

After more testing became available, the "positivity rate" fell below 5 percent in mid-April, but Gee said the number rose again at the end of the month and only has been declining for a couple of days.

"Currently it looks like we're starting, maybe, to trend downward, but we'd like to see that happen over the next week or two before we can make an official announcement on (variances)," he said.R32;Until then, he urged residents to continue wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, washing their hands frequently, and refraining from touching their faces.

"We hope those actions will continue to push the number of positive cases lower (despite the) re-openings that are starting today," he said.