Wyoming news briefs for June 21

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Park lifts indoor masking as Teton County COVID risk declines

JACKSON — Grand Teton National Park has lifted its requirement for wearing masks inside park buildings as Teton County’s risk for COVID-19 has declined.

After just one week at high risk for COVID, the county is back down to medium, based on a decrease in new COVID-positive hospital admissions.

The Teton County Health Department announced the change Friday afternoon, minutes after an emergency Nixle showed a 28.7-percent decrease in weekly cases. Since June 10, there have been 119 reported cases for county residents, and an additional 62 nonresident cases.

It resumed counting out-of-county visitors this week in an effort to track how tourists spread the virus.

Only a handful of people, both residents and visitors, have required hospitalization for COVID-19 in the past week. 

St. John’s Health has a 7-day average of 0.43 patients with COVID in the hospital’s primary care unit and 0.14 patients with COVID in the ICU.

At medium-risk level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home when sick, testing when symptomatic and wearing a mask to limit exposure. 

Those who test positive can call the health department’s COVID hotline at 307-732-8628. 

Some individuals may qualify for free antiviral treatment, which can reduce the chances of severe illness from the virus.

Last summer, Teton County entered the high-risk level in late August and remained at that elevated level for months.

The Health Department has since changed its metrics to align with the CDC, which changed the data it tracks to determine risk level.

Now, on a weekly basis, the CDC determines countywide risk based on county-level case rates, new regional hospital admissions and the percent of inpatient beds full of COVID-19 patients.

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Emergency poultry rule repealed, showing at the fair to proceed

CODY — Poultry shows have the go-ahead from the state livestock board after being banned for most of the spring due to concerns of avian influenza.

Wyoming’s emergency rule prohibiting commingling of poultry due to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza was repealed June 13, according to a release. 

Due to declining cases both in Wyoming and across the U.S., the WLSB voted to repeal the emergency poultry order. 

With the repeal of the emergency poultry rule, local fair and extension officials are able to determine the  status of their poultry exhibitions. 

The rule was passed on April 19 by the Wyoming Livestock Board to limit the spread of HPAI. 

Since the initial diagnosis of HPAI within the U.S. in February, the virus has spread across 36 states on 371 premises, affecting approximately 40 million poultry.

Park County was one of the first in the state to report cases of bird flu. The rule put poultry showings, including the one at the Park County Fair, in jeopardy, although officials said they would revisit the rule.

Now cases are declining in Wyoming, due primarily to a decrease in wild waterfowl migration. That means poultry showings can proceed for the summer fair season. 

As the virus is transmitted via migratory birds, mainly wild ducks and geese, poultry owners are reminded to continue their vigilance against the highly fatal disease by eliminating contact  between wild waterfowl and domestic poultry. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern. Birds and eggs from an infected flock will not enter the food system.

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Former jail officer accused of having sex with inmate pleads no contest

GILLETTE — The former Campbell County jail officer accused of having sex with an inmate in May 2021 while she was in jail pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree sexual assault.

Sean Isaac Allen, 31, was found guilty of that charge on May 12 and had a count of third-degree sexual assault and another second-degree charge dismissed, according to court documents.

A plea deal recommended a suspended four- to six-year sentence with a 365-day split-sentence to be served in jail outside of Campbell County, as well as the ability to argue for a lesser sentence.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation began investigating Allen last summer when an inmate complained in early July that Allen was engaging in sexual activity with an inmate.

The inmate who complained said that Allen would frequently enter the woman’s cell alone with her and stay there for several minutes, during which sexual noises sometimes could be heard, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Others in the cell block said it wasn’t uncommon for Allen to enter her cell, outside the view of cameras, for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, according to the affidavit. They also complained that the inmate was given privileges from him that they were not.

The inmate told DCI that Allen made her “feel that if she didn’t do what he wanted she would be in trouble,” according to court documents.

Allen continued to go into her cell, she said, stating at one point they had sexual intercourse, according to court documents.

Video footage showed him visiting her cell during the daytime when they allegedly had sex.

Allen has a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 29.