Wyoming news briefs for May 6


Sheridan schools see COVID outbreak

SHERIDAN — About 50 individuals from two Sheridan County School District 2 buildings have been sent home after district officials reported a “small concentration” of new COVID-19 cases, according to an announcement released late Tuesday.

SCSD2 officials reported positive COVID-19 cases recently occurred at both Highland Park Elementary School and Sheridan Junior High School. The announcement did not indicate when the cases were reported.

“With the guidance of local health officials, schools are conducting contact tracing and requiring close contacts of positive cases to quarantine for seven to 10 days,” said Mitch Craft, SCSD2 assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment. “Other schools will follow suit in the event that positive cases arise in their buildings.

District officials are strongly encouraging all staff and students to be aware of the current situation and consider wearing masks at school to avoid quarantines and contracting COVID-19 as they near the end of 2020-21 school year.

According to SCSD2 officials, those individuals who choose to wear face coverings and/or are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine. Staff and family members are also encouraged to resume home-screening each morning and avoid attending school if sick.

The report of the new COVID-19 cases comes about two weeks after all three Sheridan County school districts collaborated to request and then received an exemption to the state’s mask mandate, allowing staff and students to attend school without being required to wear protective masks.

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Riverton superintendent pleads not guilty to DUI

RIVERTON — Riverton Superintendent of schools Dr. JoAnne Andre-Flanagan has entered a plea of “not guilty” via her attorney, according to the Riverton Municipal Court. 

Court staff also stated that the Fremont County School District 25 leader’s May 5 arraignment has been delayed, replaced by a scheduling conference which has not yet been set. 

Flanagan was taken into custody briefly on Saturday, April 22, after registering a .14 blood-alcohol content while driving in the 100 block of South Fifth Street West in Riverton at about 11:45 p.m. She was cited by the Riverton Police Department for DUI. 

In Wyoming, more severe consequences can be incurred by registering a .15 or higher BAC amid a DUI citation. Penalties for driving with a .08 to .14 BAC range from a deferred prosecution with some probationary terms, to six months in jail and $750 in fines.

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Park Co. burglary nets more than half million

POWELL — A burglar or burglars stole more than a half-million dollars worth of cash, coins and firearms from a South Fork home earlier this year, the Park County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday. 

Sheriff Scott Steward said the theft — believed to have occurred sometime between late January and the end of February — was the largest he’s seen in his 30 years in law enforcement “by far.”

Steward said his office suspects several people were involved.

“Whoever it was, it was a targeted deal,” he said. “They knew what they were looking for.”

The unidentified victim of the crime is offering a $20,000 reward — valid through July 1 — for any information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of the thief or thieves.

The burglary, which occurred at a residence about 30 miles southwest of Cody, was discovered and reported to the sheriff’s office on Feb. 28.

Among the stolen items were roughly $200,000 in cash, gold and silver eagle coins valued at more than $60,000, a Rolex watch and more than 90 firearms. 

Some of the guns were “very valuable,” the sheriff’s office said, including three hand-engraved Fratelli Poli shotguns worth more than $15,000 apiece. 

Roughly 10 AR-15 and M4-type weapons also went missing, along with suppressors, range finders, thermal and night vision scopes, spotting scopes, crossbows and “much more,” said Charla Baugher Torczon, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.

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Yellowstone to allow full tour buses

CODY — Yellowstone National Park will once again allow large caravans of people traveling on tour buses through its corridors this summer.

The Park announced last week that operators that can commit to having all their passengers either vaccinated or tested up to 72 hours before their trip into the Park will be permitted to operate in the park at 100-percent capacity. Operators who cannot commit to those conditions will be limited to 50 percent of vehicle capacity, or 10 persons including the driver and or guide, whichever number is greater.

Park superintendent Cam Sholly said the latter regulation could be an apt route for mid-sized buses carrying around 30 passengers.

These regulations are being shared by Grand Teton National Park.

The 2021 Commercial Vehicle Occupancy Standards state that continued COVID-19 mitigations such as mask wearing and other CDC recommendations should also be in place on the buses.

In 2020 commercial vehicles were limited to 10 passengers or fewer. No virus outbreaks were connected to commercial tours in the Park.

These standards were developed with the collaboration of the motorcoach industry and the U.S. Public Health Service, Yellowstone reported.

“I’ve been very pleased with the conversations with the motorcoach tour bus industry,” Sholly said, who added many tours won’t be operating with 100-percent capacity even with the restored ability to do so. “We worked with them to come to an agreement to see what that would look like.”

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Melt reduces snowpack to sub-normal levels

WORLAND — Statewide snowpack/snowwater equivalent (SWE) is at 89 percent of median as of Monday, May 3, according to Jim Fahey, Wyoming Natural Resource Conservation Service hydrologist. 

Fahey reported Monday morning that basins west of the continental divide generally had 10 percent to 20 percent decreases in snowpack/ SWEs from last week due to active snowmelt at elevations below 9,000 feet. 

Basins in central to north central Wyoming — to include the Bighorn, Wind, Tongue, and Powder — generally had snowpack/SWE numbers that generally remained the same or had small increases. The increases are mainly due to additional mountain snow from last week. The Powder and Tongue watersheds have the highest SWEs in the state with 129 percent and 124 percent, respectively; while the Upper Bear Basin had the state low at 57 percent of median. 

The Bighorn drainage basin remained steady at 116 percent of average, the Shoshone dropped from 82 percent of average to 70 percent of average. Light snow amounts are expected across all mountain areas in Wyoming early in the week and again by the end of the week. Snow levels will be fluctuating between 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Active snowmelt —especially below 9,000 feet— will be limited (one to two days at most) during the upcoming week as generally below average temperatures are expected. Highs in the early part of the week were forecast for the low 60s. Highs Thursday and Friday are forecast at 76, but temperatures are slated to drop for the weekend with a Saturday high expected around 53.

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Pharmacists ask state to regulate insurance reimbursements

LOVELL — Lovell pharmacies have launched an effort to persuade the state to regulate insurance companies, stating the amount they’re reimbursed for the prescriptions they fill aren’t enough to pay for the medication itself.

Lovell Drug launched a petition on April 21, planning to present the signatures before the governor and the legislature, pharmacist and owner Brent Reasch said.

“The federal government has given states the right to mandate, guide and regulate the big insurance companies in their own

individual states,” Reasch said. “We’re trying to get these signatures before the legislature and our governor and get them to regulate and mandate that the big insurance companies have to pay us at least the cost of the medication.” 

The issue at hand is that of Pharmacy Benefit Managers, according to Camilla Hancock, an independent pharmacist at Basin, in a letter she sent to Representative Jamie Flitner, R-Shell, provided to the Lovell Chronicle by Senator RJ Kost, R-Greybull. 

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) administer drug plans for more than 270 million Americans, according to Hancock’s letter. 

“They state that they do so by offering mail order, encouraging use of generics, negotiating rebates from drug manufacturers, managing high-cost specialty medications and reducing waste. Essentially, they became a middleman between pharmacies and insurance agents,” Hancock said. “While this may sound nice, they have turned into an uncontrolled parasite on the healthcare system. Instead of helping the healthcare system, they have lined their own pockets. “Several states have begun investigating PBMs and have found this to indeed be the case.” 

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Crash claims life of Rapid City woman

SUNDANCE — A fatal vehicle crash on the intestate east of Sundance claimed the life of a Rapid City resident April 28.

The incident took place in the morning and involved a single SUV.

According to reports from Wyoming Highway Patrol, the crash took place near milepost 199 at 8:52 a.m. on April 28. The vehicle was heading east when its left rear tire tread separated from the tire, which caused the driver to lose control.

The vehicle exited the right side of the roadway, where it overturned.

The driver, later identified as 42-year-old Kelsey M. Conner of South Dakota, was not wearing a seatbelt and succumbed to his injuries at the site of the crash.

Wyoming Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the accident and at this time lists possibilities including speed, equipment failure and alcohol or drug use.

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