Wyoming's top health official on Wednesday offered a plan for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes and longterm care facilities during the ongoing pandemic.

The first outbreak in a Wyoming nursing home was reported last week, though one of the state's first outbreaks was in a longterm care facility in Fremont County.

Health officials are particularly concerned about that population segment.

Wyoming Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said state health officials will take a two-pronged approach to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and longterm care facilities:

  • Facilities without known COVID-19 cases will test 20 percent of residents and staff every two weeks. Samples can be tested through the state or commercial labs.
  • Facilities with known COVID-19 cases will be asked to test all staff and residents until officials can be sure there isn't a potential ongoing outbreak.

Harrist said the strategy will help officials prevent an outbreak impacting Wyoming's most vulnerable residents.

"This strategy can offer us a powerful tool to intervene as early as possible," Harrist said.

Harrist added that there is "substantial" evidence that people who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms can transmit it to others.

On Sunday, health officials reported that nine staff members and residents at a nursing home in Worland had tested positive for COVID-19. 

In mid-March, several residents in a Lander assisted-living facility fell ill with COVID-19.

According to the CDC, elderly people are more susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19. As of Wednesday, Wyoming has 596 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases. There have been 11 deaths from the respiratory illness. 

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