Several cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been confirmed among residents and staff of a long-term care facility in Washakie County over the last few days, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH). Officials have so far identified five cases among staff members and four among residents of Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. Lab testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory confirmed most of the known cases, with more results pending. While the concern involving the facility began after testing of staff members who were ill and sought medical care, it is unclear at this time how the virus was introduced among the staff and residents, or how many of the newly confirmed cases are experiencing symptoms. The response so far has included attempted sample collection from all employees and residents with the help of facility staff. Follow up activities will likely include a visit to the facility from WDH staff for consultation and situation review, staff and patient interviews and more testing. Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, emphasized the protection of older Wyoming residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers has been the department’s top concern and priority throughout the pandemic. “We know the residents of these places are among the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and we have seen terrible situations occur in other nursing homes across the country,” she said. “We also recognize that the nature of long-term care facilities can make it very challenging to control the spread of the virus once it’s been introduced into a specific location.” Current nursing home guidelines strictly limit visitors or non-essential healthcare personnel. “We believe this policy has been helpful in Wyoming over the last couple of months, but, the risk of potential exposure through staff and patients still exists,” Harrist said. COVID-19 can be transmitted by infected people who don’t yet have symptoms. Disease symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after virus exposure and include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. Harrist said this situation should serve as reminder that everyone should still take precautions to avoid becoming ill with the virus or passing it along to others. “Unfortunately, this virus is still among us,” she said. WDH recommendations to help slow the spread of illness include: • Follow current public health orders. • Stay home when sick and avoid contact with other people unless you need medical attention. • Follow common-sense steps such as washing your hands often and well; covering your coughs and sneezes; and cleaning and disinfecting. • Wear cloth face coverings in public setting where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. • Older people and those with health conditions that mean they have a higher chance of getting seriously ill should avoid close-contact situations as much as possible. For more information about coronavirus disease 2019 and Wyoming, visit: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.
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