First coronavirus found on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation

First coronavirus found on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation


ARAPAHOE, Wyo. — Wyoming's Wind River Reservation has recorded its first known case of coronavirus but health officials doubted it was the only one.

The unidentified person, whose condition wasn't disclosed, was tied to a cluster of cases among residents and staff at a Lander assisted-living center, according to Wind River Family and Community Healthcare.

Wind River Family and Community Healthcare is one of two facilities on the reservation funded through the Indian Health Service, Wyoming Public Radio reports.

"As we investigate this case and hear more about the other cases in the county we have good reason to believe that there are many more cases in the community," the center's chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Ebbert, said in a Northern Arapaho Tribe statement Saturday.

The Northern Arapaho share the central Wyoming reservation with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.

As of Monday, 26 people have tested positive for the virus in Wyoming. There have been 10 cases in Fremont County, where most of the reservation is located, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people but can cause more severe illness for the elderly and people with existing conditions. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.

The Wind River Reservation's two Indian Health Service-funded facilities were under-resourced even before the pandemic, said Wind River Family and Community Healthcare CEO Richard Brannan.

Staff began preparing for COVID-19 a month before Wyoming's first case March 11, in part because they didn't expect emergency help from the federal government.

"You know, there isn't going to be a Lone Ranger riding up with a white hat and a white stallion saying 'I'm gonna save you' or whatever. We have to be prepared, given the limitations of our resources," Brannan said.

Brannan estimated 40% of the center's 11,000 patients have no health insurance, limiting their options for treatment outside the health centers.

In other Wyoming coronavirus-related news:

- Cheyenne-Laramie County Health ordered the closure of Frontier Mall, the city's largest indoor shopping mall, until at least Monday night to deter young people from gathering in numbers that could spread the virus, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

- Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forests in western Wyoming were closing most public toilets until further notice due to coronavirus. Several portable toilets remained open in nearby Grand Teton National Park, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. The national park is substantially closed this time of year due to snow.

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