Public health officials in Uinta County are urging local residents to redouble their efforts in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 after a recent spike in new cases indicates "significant community spread" of the coronavirus.

Two weeks ago, the county had two active cases. As of Monday evening, the total of lab-confirmed cases had reached 78, with 61 of those active.

"That unfortunately means that we are the county with the highest number of active cases in the state," the county's public health office said on its Facebook page.

"Did we expect this to happen? With opening things back up, and with increased gathering, yes, we did expect to see little spikes in our numbers. But this big of a growth in such a short time wasn't expected," officials said.

The officials are using the percentage of positive virus test results to judge the spike in cases.

"This is how you know if more positive cases are simply resulting from more testing/better surveillance of the population or not. If you're just doing a lot more tests and therefore finding the hidden pockets of positive cases, the percentage of positive test[s] would remain low, even as more positive cases are found," officials explained.

"In short, vastly increasing the number of tests done while also still seeing a high percent of positive tests, means we've got significant community spread, and we are in a bit of an outbreak," they said.

Until two weeks ago, about 1% of Uinta County residents who were tested for the virus received a 'positive' result. However, in the past two weeks, 4% of COVID-19 tests have come back 'positive.'

"Without being alarmist, we do want people to know that 3% is a pretty big change in a short time, and when percent positive is climbing, we're spiking," public health officials emphasized.

Uinta County officials also said its helpful to look at the percentage of positive tests in two-week periods.

"In the last two weeks of testing, we have had 16.72% positive test results. Thankfully that is down from 20% a couple of days ago. Anything over 10[%] indicates a spike," they said.

Most of the new cases are in people ages 20-29. The new patients largely report some illness, some moderately severe, with symptoms including high fevers, painful body aches and difficulty breathing.

"A few have had only minor symptoms, like loss of sense of taste or smell and a slight headache. There has been one hospitalization that we know of," officials said.

Contact tracers are working hard to identify anyone associated with known virus patients who may need to be tested.

Given the easing of restrictions that were implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the drastically declining diligence of the public in following health guidelines, the Uinta County officials emphasized the importance of taking the coronavirus threat seriously.

"Keep your space, wear a mask. For vulnerable people, or those that live with or work with vulnerable people, this might not be the best time to frequent gatherings," officials added.

As of Tuesday morning, the Wyoming Department of Health reported 856 lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus as well as 223 probable cases statewide.

Eighteen virus-related deaths have been reported in Wyoming.

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