Wyoming news briefs for August 30


Western Wyoming College adopts 30-day mask mandate

ROCK SPRINGS — The Western Wyoming Community College Board of Trustees approved a 30-day mask mandate at a special board meeting on Wednesday. 

The decision was made after hearing recommendations from Dr. Kim Dale, the president of Western, and updated COVID-19 statistics from Dr. Jean Stachon, the Sweetwater County public health officer. 

As of Aug. 25, there are four total confirmed positive COVID-19 cases among the student body with six students currently in quarantine. Among Western staff members, two have tested positive and five are currently in quarantine. 

“It’s delicate balance in keeping students safe and giving them a great experience,” Dr. Dale said.

Dr. Stachon said that Sweetwater County ranks the third highest in the state when it comes to the COVID-19 delta variant, adding that the Wyoming Department of Heath tracks these particular cases. She added that most of the variant cases are with younger people. 

The board of trustees also approved a testing requirement among the students and faculty. Over the next few weeks, a survey will be conducted to find out how many students and staff members have been vaccinated. The survey is voluntary and the individual may remain anonymous.

Yadi Vicencio, the president of the student government association, said she had talked to about 280 students during Welcome Week while looking for a consensus. She said students were willing to do whatever it takes to continue in-person instruction, and that includes wearing masks. 

Out of all the Mustangs she talked to, she said no one was against a mask mandate.

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Hospital Association urges vaccine for all hospital staff

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Hospital Association and LeadingAge Wyoming, along with their governing boards, on behalf of their member hospitals and nursing homes, strongly encourage all who are eligible, and particularly those who work in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to become vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“Hospitals and nursing homes in Wyoming have seen firsthand the devastating impact of COVID-19,” according to a statement from the organization. “The lived experience of our health care heroes, and the objective evidence of what works to make a difference informs our position on this issue. Furthermore, we owe it to these brave employees and the patients they serve to provide the safest environment possible. 

“We are urging all health-care workers to receive the free, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. The WHA is available to assist all hospitals and nursing homes in whatever ways needed to achieve 100% vaccination in our facilities.” 

The release goes on to say WHA recognizes the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, while simultaneously valuing the ability of health care facilities creating those environments of safety in the best ways they know how. 

“We know what works to stop the spread of infection, and we have the necessary tools. Vaccination, good hand hygiene, socially distancing when able, and wearing masks are steps we all should be taking to keep everyone safe,” the statement continues. “Those who work in hospitals and nursing homes should lead the way in modeling these precautions.”

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Cooler weather helps firefighters battle Crater Ridge Fire

CASPER — Firefighters took advantage of cooler weather over the weekend to increase containment around a blaze burning in the Bighorn National Forest. 

Containment of the Crater Ridge Fire reached 52 percent on Sunday, up from 35 percent just two days earlier, according to the latest update from crews working the blaze. That progress came as rain and hail fell over the region of the fire, which is roughly 30 miles northeast of of Lovell near Wyoming’s border with Montana. 

As crews make progress on the blaze, the number of personnel working it has begun to fall. As of Sunday, that number stood at 139. At one point, more than 200 people were involved in fighting the fire. 

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped to minimize fire behavior over the weekend, the update states. Firefighters planned Sunday to increase containment in areas that were accessible to them. 

However, the cooler, wetter weather wasn’t expected to last. Sunday was forecast to be warmer, with humidity falling to around 30%, according to the update. No additional rain was expected to fall. 

The Crater Ridge Fire has so far charred 6,232 acres since it ignited July 17. Fire officials suspect it was touched off by lightning. 

A closure order remains in effect for the forest areas near the fire, affecting several forest roads and trails.

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Former rehab center director accused of stealing $189,000

GILLETTE — The former executive director of Personal Frontiers is accused of stealing $189,075 from the drug and alcohol abuse counseling center over a three-year period making “suspicious transactions” mainly at liquor and gambling establishments.

Donna E. Morgan, 58, has been charged with three felony counts of theft, one for each of the years she worked at the agency.

Each count has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Morgan allegedly told a Personal Frontiers board member in July while they were drinking that she was stealing money from the organization. She “felt that she would possibly have to refinance her home to pay off the outstanding debt,” according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

The board member contacted another board member and then reported it to the police.

Police learned that Morgan was the only one to have access to a Personal Frontiers’ debit card, which was supposed to be used for business-related expenses.

Bank statements showed that “suspicious transactions” using the debit card were made at the Eagles Lodge, Wyoming Downs, Horse Palace and other gambling and liquor establishments, according to the affidavit.

In 2019, Morgan is accused of spending $36,999. In 2020, she spent $97,908 in unauthorized charges and in 2021, $54,168 before Aug. 8, according to the affidavit.

Bond for Morgan was set at $5,000 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to determine whether there is probable cause to bind her over to District Court on the charges.

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