CARBON COUNTY — With the COVID-19 virus now being classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the world is taking precautions.
Some countries have suspended all international travel. Events all over the world are being canceled. The reaction has been swift, with officials trying to prevent even more of a spread.
Carbon County is no different. While only one coronavirus case has been confirmed in Wyoming (a woman from Sheridan County), city, county and state officials have been taking preventative measures to prepare for the virus hitting Wyoming.
Currently, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County is taking the following precautions as of press time. This week, the hospital announced it would cancel its annual Health and Wellness Fair scheduled for April due to concerns over the virus.
But starting Monday, the hospital will install more safety measures for the foreseeable future to prevent possible spreading of the virus. Patients and guests will only be able to enter the hospital through the main lobby from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or through the emergency room anytime. All of the other entrances will be closed.
At each entrance, COVID-19 screening stations will be in place. All employees, visitors and patients must complete the screening. During the screening, a person will be asked a series of questions regarding travel and recent activity. Hospital staff members will also complete a temperature scan. This information will determine the next steps taken.
Any patient should alert staff and ask for a mask if experiencing a fever or cold or flu symptoms. Any visitors with cold or flu symptoms won’t be allowed to visit any area of the hospital.
“This is a precautionary process, but we have a higher responsibility to take these steps due to the industry we’re in,” hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Hinkle said.
State health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said in a news release from the state Department of Health that the current risk of transmission in Wyoming residents is low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending no non-essential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy and no travel on cruise ships.
Carbon County School District superintendent Mike Hamel said that while the school officials are monitoring the situation, there are no plans to close the school as of Thursday. The school district will stay in contact with Carbon County Public Health to make any further decisions.
Carbon County Clerk Gwynn Bartlett didn’t return a call from a reporter about the steps the county was taking to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak. County interim emergency manager Ron Brown was unable to be reached.
Public health nurse manager Amanda Brown said that while she and her staff are discussing preparation plans, she likely wouldn’t have anything finalized until next week. She referred back to the state Department of Health for any information about the virus.
COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan City, China. Its first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. At the time of reporting, there are a total of 1,215 cases of coronavirus in the United States, with 36 reported deaths. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes are at higher risk of falling seriously ill if they catch the virus.
Symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Emergency warning signs are difficulty breathing, bluish lips or face, persistent pain or pressure in the chest and confusion or inability to arouse.
To avoid catching the virus, it’s recommended people wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay away from people who are sick and stay home if you’re feeling unwell.
Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.