Wyoming news briefs for November 12

Wyoming has highest rate of nursing home COVID

CHEYENNE — After three months of low numbers of nursing home resident COVID-19 cases and deaths in Wyoming, things have taken a turn for the worse through the end of September and most of October, according to the latest AARP COVID-19 Nursing Home Dashboard. 

Wyoming’s 8.49 COVID-19 cases per 100 nursing home residents is far and away the highest in the country and nearly double the rate of any other state in the Union. 

Montana has the nation’s second-highest rate at 6.94 cases per 100 residents. 

In all, there were 197 reported cases of COVID-19 among residents of Wyoming nursing homes from mid-September through Oct. 17. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 14,000 nursing home resident cases in the Cowboy State. 

Wyoming also has the second-highest rate of nursing home resident deaths due to COVID in the nation during the four-week period running from Sept. 20 through Oct. 17, with 1.53 deaths per 100 nursing home residents (27 deaths due to COVID-19 total over the same four-week period).

Montana has the nation’s highest rate at 1.72 COVID-19 deaths per 100 nursing home residents.

Montana and Wyoming are the only two states in the Union with a rate higher than 0.62 nursing home resident deaths per 100 residents attributed to COVID-19.


Laramie school mask requirement extended to December

LARAMIE — The Albany County School District Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to extend the district’s mask mandate through Dec. 17 while also signaling they’d like to consider dropping the mandate in January. 

By a 7-1 vote, with Trustee Jason Tangeman voting no, the board approved the mandate as part of a revision to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan. 

Dec. 17 marks the last day of school before a two-week winter break, with classes scheduled to resume Jan. 3. 

According to the Wyoming Department of Health, Albany County is in the Orange Zone of COVID-19 transmission, indicating moderate-high transmission. The county has fluctuated between orange and red this fall. 

The district’s plan calls for the board to consider removing the mandate when the county remains in the Yellow Zone for three consecutive weeks or the county reaches a 70-percent vaccination rate.

Currently, 50.17 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated. 

Superintendent Jubal Yennie said there are 20 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff members this week, and case numbers have been dropping since peaking at 156 during the week of Oct. 11. 

“We’re taking a look at the data, and the data is actually looking pretty good,” he said. 

Yennie said health officials are still anticipating a surge in case numbers as winter arrives and events and social gatherings move indoors. 

“I’m encouraged by where we’re heading, but I think we probably need to stay the course,” he said. 


Almost $25K raised for Cheyenne teen killed in accident

CASPER — Nearly $25,000 has been raised for the family of the Cheyenne teenager killed by a car last week. 

Makaili James Evans, 13, was crossing Western Hills Boulevard near McCormick Jr. High School around 7 a.m. on Nov. 5 when the driver of a Ford Escape hit him. 

Evans, a student at the middle school, was pronounced dead after being taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. 

As of Thursday morning, a GoFundMe campaign organized by a close friend of Evans’ family had raised $24,581 from 362 donations. 

According to the fundraiser page, Evans was a prankster who also loved camping, fishing, hiking, music and movies. He had recently started to take after his older brother, becoming interested in film and photography. He liked to spend time with his friends, often riding bikes.

“His joyful personality and pursuit to make his friends and family laugh and smile was his mission,” the description by organizer Reed Barrett reads. “There wasn’t a day that would go by where even the smallest interaction with Makaili wouldn’t lead to your biggest smile.” 

The money raised will go towards helping the Evans’ family with the memorial services, hospital bills and other unexpected expenses. 

Two other teenagers were also hit while crossing the street in Cheyenne on Monday, police said.

They were at the intersection of Windmill Road and East Pershing Boulevard near East High School. 

The driver of a GMC Acadia hit the 13-year-old and 15-year-old while they were trying to cross the street at the crosswalk.


Hospital CEO urges staff not to leave because of mandate

JACKSON — St. John’s Health CEO David Robertson in a Wednesday email to hospital staff expressed gratitude for their service and urged them not to leave St. John’s Health because of the recently approved federal vaccine mandate.

Roughly 17 percent of St. John’s staff of about 830 are unvaccinated.

“It is my sincere desire for us to NOT see anyone leave our St. John’s team as a result of this nationally mandated program. Our community is counting on us,” the CEO wrote.

Robertson also expressed support for the lifesaving pandemic precaution.

“As you all know, I am personally very strongly committed to the value and efficacy of vaccines,” he wrote. “Without question, for employee safety and the safety of co-workers and patients, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is the recommended course of action.”

Finalized rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services require health care workers nationwide to receive their first vaccine dose by Dec. 5 and complete the series by Jan. 4. 

There are select medical and religious exemptions, but unlike the mandated program for employers with more than 100 employees, there is no test-out option for health care workers.

Staff who are not fully vaccinated or granted an exemption by Jan. 4 cannot continue to work for St. John’s.

The federal mandate applies to all health care organizations nationwide that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Noncompliance could result in St. John’s being excluded from those programs, “which would essentially result in the closure of St. John’s,” Robertson wrote.