Four Deaths Added to Wyoming’s Coronavirus-Related Count

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Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 2:37 PM CDT
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Four Fremont County residents, all previously identified as laboratory-confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, have died, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

All four victims were members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Three were from the same family.

The individuals include two Tribal elders – a man and woman – as well as an adult woman and adult man. Each of the victims had been hospitalized, according to the Wyoming Department of Health, and two of the four had existing health conditions.

These are the first confirmed deaths of Northern Arapaho members due to COVID-19.

“This is the day we’ve feared, and now all of the Northern Arapaho Tribe mourns the tragic deaths of four of our own,” said Chairman Lee Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Business Council. “COVID-19 threatens us all – young or old, healthy or ill. This wicked virus even prevents us from gathering as a community to grieve the loss of these dear members of our Tribal family.

“Let this tragedy be a reminder to all Arapaho people: Stay home, stay safe, and protect yourself and your loved ones from this dangerous disease.”

The NABC continues to coordinate closely with Tribal health authorities, as well as local, state and federal officials. On March 11, before the State of Wyoming had declared a single positive case, the NABC issued an emergency declaration due to the threat of COVID-19, and eliminated all non-essential travel by Tribal employees.

All schools and public establishments are temporarily closed, and public gatherings of any sort are prohibited. The Wind River Hotel and Casino remains closed to the public until further notice.

On April 1, the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council enacted a stay-at-home order for all Tribal members and residents of the Wind River Reservation. That order, which remains in effect until further notice, has exceptions for Tribal members to seek medical attention or shop for groceries, medications or other necessities. Exempted from the order are essential workers, including: healthcare and pharmacy workers; 1st responders; public works and sanitation crews; grocery and food supply workers; financial services; and more.

Chairman Spoonhunter stressed the critical importance of Tribal members continuing to follow the stay-at-home order.

“As the weather warms, it’s natural that people want to gather with friends and family. Young people, in particular, may think they’re not at risk. They’re wrong. None of us are immune to this disease, and even those who don’t fall seriously ill may transmit the virus to someone who does. Please stay home, continue to follow all public health guidelines and help us protect Tribal members so that we don’t have any more terrible days like this.”

There have been 320 confirmed and 116 probable cases reported so far from across Wyoming.

“These announcements are difficult to make,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH.

“We’ve talked a lot about who has the highest risk of hospitalization and death related to this disease and that is important information,” she said. “But the truth is anyone can get sick with COVID-19, anyone has a chance of a serious illness and anyone who is infected can pass COVID-19 on to others.”

WDH recommendations to help slow the spread of illness include:

• Follow current public health orders, which encourage staying home much as possible.

• 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.

Symptoms reported with COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.