Wyoming news briefs for December 20

Wyoming sees first omicron COVID case

LARAMIE — A University of Wyoming student living off campus is the state’s first confirmed case of the omicron COVID-19 variant, the Wyoming Department of Health reported Thursday afternoon.

“With the quick spread of this variant across the nation, including within some of our neighbor states, we are not surprised with this result and expect there are other cases within Wyoming that haven’t yet been identified,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and epidemiologist with WDH, said in a prepared statement.

Harrist said there is much to learn about omicron and its potential impact over time, but she is concerned about how easily and quickly the variant appears to be transmitted between people.

The student has recently traveled domestically and confirmation of infection of a second student possibly having the variant is pending testing, according to a UW press release. Until confirmation, the second student also is presumed to be infected with omicron.

The infected UW student had received two doses of COVID vaccine but not a booster shot and is experiencing mild symptoms, UW reports. The second student has been fully vaccinated with a booster shot and hasn’t displayed any symptoms of the virus.

Early indications are that the omicron variant, while highly transmissible, has less severe symptoms for most people than other forms of the virus, according to the WDH.


Gordon signs second hay order

CHEYENNE — For the second time this year, Gov. Mark Gordon has signed an executive order to allow certain motor carriers hauling hay in Wyoming to operate outside of regular operating hours and carry larger loads. 

A previous executive order addressing hay transport expired Nov. 30. 

Oversize loads of baled livestock feed qualifying for a permit may once again operate two hours before sunrise and two hours after sunset with a valid permit. The permit also authorizes oversize baled livestock feed loads up to 12 feet in width or 15 feet in height. Additional lighting requirements must be adhered to for the safety of the motoring public. The permits are valid for movements of baled livestock feed to a destination within Wyoming, or a destination in another state that has declared an emergency for livestock feed. 

The executive order does not grant authority for any vehicle to exceed weight limits, posted bridge limits or size restrictions on any road. Permits can be obtained from the Wyoming Highway Patrol, and must be carried for the duration of the permit and throughout the emergency. 

The executive order expires on Feb. 28. Additional questions can be directed to WHP Lt. Dustin Ragon at 307-777-4301.


Youth crisis center to reopen

RAWLINS — The Carbon County Youth Crisis Center in Rawlins is expected to reopen in the next 60 days under new management. 

With minimal discussion, the county commission agreed to spend $200,000 a year for a five-year management agreement to reopen the county-owned eight-bed facility. 

The Carbon County community got an unexpected pre-Halloween in late October when the center was abruptly closed by its operator, Cathedral Home for Children of Laramie, which informed the county of its immediate closure. 

That was a surprise for Carbon County officials, who said they weren’t given any notice by CHC of any potential issues that would result in its withdrawal as operator of the Crisis Center. As a result, the commissioners didn’t have an opportunity to develop a transition plan to deal with losing the center’s operator. 

Because operation of the facility requires licensing from the state Department of Family Services, it had to close. 

This past week, commissioners heard a 40-minute presentation of a plan to reopen the center with a new operator. 

“We have all come to the conclusion that this is a facility that the community needs, and it is worth an investment in it to get it back open,” said commission chair John Johnson. “We were all taken aback, kind of punched in the gut, when (the closure) happened. It’s a travesty because those kids had to be uprooted.”

The new five-year agreement will be with Volunteers of America Northern Rockies based in Sheridan.


Occupational fatalities up in 2020

CHEYENNE — The Research & Planning Section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported this week that the number of occupational fatalities in Wyoming rose from 32 in 2019 to 35 in 2020 (an increase of three deaths, or 9.4 percent). 

Variations in fatalities from year to year are, to some extent, the result of the random nature of work-related accidents. Furthermore, there is not always a direct relationship between workplace fatalities and workplace safety. For example, suicides and homicides that occur in the workplace are included as occupational fatalities. Workplace fatalities are counted in the state where the injury occurred, not necessarily the state of residence or the state of death. 

In 2020, 13 deaths occurred in natural resources & mining (or 37.1 percent of all deaths). Nine deaths were reported in agriculture, forestry, fishing, & hunting (25.7) and nine deaths occurred in transportation & warehousing (25.7). There were four deaths in mining, quarrying, & oil & gas extraction (11.4). Construction and retail trade each had three deaths (8.6). 

Across all industries, more than half of 2020 workplace deaths (57.1 percent) were the result of transportation incidents. Transportation incidents include highway crashes, pedestrian vehicular incidents, aircraft incidents and water vehicle incidents.