Lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Natrona County rose by 11 in the past week, bringing the local total to 103 as of Tuesday, according to a news release from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

This marked the largest number of cases in a one-week period since the pandemic began, and has challenged the department's ability to conduct contact tracing.

"Despite limited resources and staffing, sharing of information and transparency has always been, and continues to be the Casper-Natrona County Health Department’s top priority," according to the news release.

However, the substantial increase is causing the health department to re-evaluate its efforts to manage the spread of the coronavirus, and to encourage the community to visit the Wyoming Department of Health's website for regular updates on new COVID-19 cases.

Most of the new cases in the past few weeks have been from unknown transmission with the likelihood of community transmission, which refers to the local exposure and contraction of the disease through common interactions, but the origin cannot be pinpointed.

Contact tracing tracing to locate the origin of an infection is extensive, complex, time consuming and requires timely response starting with a confirmed positive case reported by the health department.

The local and state health departments then call the person with the new case to identify exposure periods and contacts during that time.

The contact tracing staff depends on the person sharing as much information as possible to minimize transmission, and there are factors unique to that person and situation.

Not every contact in the last two weeks is relevant for tracing and quarantine, but a person with a longer exposure period and especially one who works in a high-risk setting or attended many events will create a long list, or web, of contacts.

This web will have multiple strands connecting the infected person to other places or people, complicating the ability to narrow down the origin.

As more community transmission occurs, contact tracing becomes that much more difficult.

Contact tracing and epidemiologic mapping is incredibly detailed, extensive, time intensive and requires great epidemiologic training.

In light of this recent increase in cases, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department again urges residents to follow the recommendations to limit transmission by washing hands often, using hand sanitizer when hand washing is unavailable, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home if sick, practicing social distancing, covering the mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others and in public, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, have a new loss of taste or smell, or have had direct contact with a known positive case, please seek testing through the Casper-Natrona County Health Department at (307) 577-9892 or the Wyoming Medical Center at (307) 233-7288.

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