Wyoming news briefs for September 8


Supreme Court Justice Davis to retire in January

CHEYENNE —  Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Kate M. Fox announced Tuesday the retirement of Justice Michael K. Davis and the beginning of the process to select a new Supreme Court justice.

Justice Davis's retirement is effective Jan. 16. He will turn 70 that month, said Lorna Griesbach, judicial assistant to Chief Justice Fox, and is required to retire by the Wyoming Constitution.

Davis served as the court's chief justice from July 1, 2018, until June 30, when his term ended. He was appointed to the Supreme Court on Aug. 30, 2012, by then-Gov. Matt Mead. Before that, he served as a Laramie County District Court judge from 2008 to 2012.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will accept expressions of interest from qualified individuals through Friday, Oct. 1. The expression of interest form can be found on the Supreme Court’s website at www.courts.state.wy.us/Administration/Careers, and the completed form must be received in the office of Chief Justice Fox no later than 5 p.m. that day.

The commission will not consider letters of recommendation, and asks that they not be submitted. Instead, it will only review documents specifically required by the expression of interest.

The commission has 60 days to forward three names to Gov. Mark Gordon, who then has 30 days to appoint a new justice, Griesbach said.

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COVID forces 170 out of school in Converse County

DOUGLAS — At least 170 Converse County students were either in quarantine or being self- isolated as of Aug. 30 as COVID-19 cases here continued to grow exponentially. 

Thirteen students tested positive or are probable cases and 158 are in isolation or quarantine, according to Converse County Public Health. 

There were 210 students and employees absent on Friday combined, Converse County School District No. 1 Superintendent Paige Fenton Hughes said Tuesday morning. 

“I’m worried about keeping our schools open,” Converse County Public Health Nurse Manager Darcey Cowardin said. “We know the Delta (variant) is more contagious, and we are seeing that when kids are exposed.” 

A year ago when there was a state- wide mask mandate in place, there was 

minimal exposure in schools and few quarantines, she said. 

“That is not the case now,” she said, adding that not having a mask mandate in place and the spread of the Delta variant are reasons for the high number of quarantines and positive cases. 

Converse County Commission Chair- man Jim Willox admits he is not sur- prised to see reports of students testing positive for COVID or are in quarantine and isolation. 

“This is affecting people of all ages,” he said. 

The spread among students isn’t limited to Converse County and is impacting activities and athletics as well. The Douglas Bearcats’ season-opening varsity and junior varsity football games against Torrington were cancelled Friday due to excessive illness and injuries by the Trailblazers.

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Rock Springs hospital opens additional COVID unit

ROCK SPRINGS — The overwhelming increase in the number of COVID-19 patients now being hospitalized has prompted Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County leadership to take more stringent precautions. 

In an emergency meeting Friday afternoon, the MHSC Incident Command team was briefed on the situation and initiated the next step of its pandemic protocol. 

“We are at crisis level,” said Incident Commander Kim White, MHSC emergency services director. “We appreciate the patience.” 

On Friday afternoon, the hospital had 16 COVID-19 inpatients. The hospital
has opened its same-day surgery unit as an additional COVID unit. 

“The emergency room staff is extremely busy keeping up with the number of people presenting in the ER,” White said. “Extra members of the hospital’s healthcare team have been brought in to help cover the influx.” 

Beginning immediately, no visitors will be allowed in the hospital until further notice, said Deb Sutton, MHSC public information officer.

The only exception to the MHSC visitor policy is one visitor is allowed with patient in the Obstetrics Department. The hospital also will continue to postpone elective surgeries, considering emergent and urgent cases on a case-by-case basis. 

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Federal funding for Riverton auditorium unlikely

RIVERTON — Lawmakers say it is unlikely the state will receive funding for a new auditorium at Riverton High School through the American Rescue Plan Act. 

“This is basically an act of futility,” Wyoming Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said during a Sept. 2 meeting of the Wyoming Select Committee on School Facilities. “We have almost zero chance of doing this.” 

He was responding to an update from state staffers who have been working on the funding application for RHS, which must come from the State Construction Department.

SCD planning and finance administrator Laura Anderson agreed with Brown’s characterization of the situation, noting that the ARPA money is supposed to fund projects that address needs related to COVID-19, and because RHS has been working to construct an auditorium for “like 30 years … I’m not sure we can tie that directly to a COVID event.”

An auditorium space was included in initial designs for RHS, which was built in 1981, but con- struction plans changed when school officials decided to seek funding through a local bond measure. 

The uranium bust of 1983 put the project on hold for the next 25 years until the state provided funding for an auditorium in 2007. 

Again, the economy soured, derailing the plan until last year, when the state allocated funding once more for the auditorium project. 

The funding was postponed this year due to economic uncertainty, but lawmakers did agree that construction should proceed if the work could be paid for using federal coronavirus relief aid.

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