Coronavirus Case Signals Community, Long-Term Care Concerns

Coronavirus Case Signals Community, Long-Term Care Concerns

March 14, 2020

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is saying today that a previously identified Fremont County case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) signals potential local community spread and warrants special attention and prevention measures related to long-term care.

Lab testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory identified an older adult male Fremont County resident as the second known Wyoming case on March 13. The patient is hospitalized at SageWest Health Care in Lander and is a resident of Showboat Retirement Center in Lander. State and county public health staff are conducting interviews at both facilities, and will recommend testing and other actions needed to help protect residents, patients and staff.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said community spread means potential spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. “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.”

“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.

Harrist is emphasizing the protection of older Wyoming residents of long-term care facilities such as 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.

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. The federal guidelines have been shared with Wyoming nursing homes by the WDH Healthcare Licensing and Surveys Office and can be found at https://health.wyo.gov/aging/hls/.

Recommended personal actions that can help avoid the spread of COVID-19 or similar illnesses include:

  • 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.

For more information about coronavirus disease 2019 and Wyoming, visit:

https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.

For more details from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.