Wyoming Medical Center and Natrona County health officials said Wednesday that the nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases is happening in Natrona County and affecting how the hospital is able to serve patients.

"This morning, at 6 a.m., we had 149 patients upstairs, which puts us at near capacity in having all private rooms and we had 17 people holding in the emergency room," Wyoming Medical Center interim CEO Dr. James Bleicher said at a news conference.

"Most people here who’ve been here a long time have never heard of that many patients holding in the emergency room," Bleicher said.

COVID cases have risen exponentially in the past few weeks, that trend will continue for at least a month, and will further strain the hospital’s staff and resources, Bleicher and Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell said.

"We're going to be stretched very thin at the hospital," Dowell said.

He urged everyone to wear a mask in businesses -- both customers and employees.

"This is not fake news, this is the real deal," he said.

"If we don't mask, we're going to get into bigger and bigger trouble," Dowell said.

Dowell urged everyone to get vaccinated for the flu because that disease will compound the problems with COVID.

He also urged people to respond to those in the Casper-Natrona County Health Department when they call to do contact tracing to research how someone contracted the coronavirus. "For those of you in the community who refuse to answer the phone calls and cooperate with contact tracing, you're hurting your own family, you're hurting our ability to take care of people, you're hurting your friends.

Dr. Ghazi Ghanem added that the every COVID case in intensive care means there are fewer beds for other patients, and that the hospital staff who are exposed to the virus must quarantine. That puts an added burden their co-workers.

Anna Kinder, director of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department said if someone becomes exposed to COVID or is diagnosed with COVID, they are taken out of the work force and possibly can affect a whole business.

As of Wednesday, Wyoming has had 6,900 lab-confirmed cases, 1,263 probable cases and 57 deaths, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. There also have been 5,340 recovered lab-confirmed cases and 921 recovered probable cases.

Natrona County has reported 711 lab-confirmed cases and 129 probable cases.

Natrona County COVID-19 Report. 10-14-20. Wyoming Department of Health.
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