Best of the West Special Edition: Wildfires in the era of COVID-19; social distancing success in Oregon; Wyoming Governor’s response lauded by Dr. Fauci

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on the latest COVID-19 related news in the West. Here are the top stories for the week starting April 13, 2020. Photo: Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Courtesy of Alaska Public Media/Office of the Governor.

Wildfires in the Age of Social Distancing: As the threat posed by COVID-19 forces a majority of the nation to remain in isolation, there are certain essential services that must continue. Among those, wildfire prevention. In California, according to AP News, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is following a series of strict social distancing protocols in order to keep state firefighters safe, including “making larger campsites near wildfires and pulling in additional trailers for showers and other hygiene needs.” Find out more about the challenges of fighting wildfires during a pandemic.

Shopping Consciously: Relief efforts, such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Low-Income Grocery Program, are more important than ever with so many Americans jobless as a result of the pandemic. "Families receive a prescribed food package based on the household members in that WIC family,” Lorianne Burhop, chief policy officer at the Montana Food Bank Network, told Montana Public Radio. “And so, they are only able to purchase certain items with their WIC benefits.” Consequently, non-WIC shoppers can help WIC families by not purchasing items bearing the WIC label whenever possible. Learn more about the benefit and limitations of the program.

Staying in and Saving Lives: Based on a series of projections by the Oregon Health Authority, the social distancing measures implemented by Gov. Kate Brown have been successful in significantly reducing the burden on the state’s healthcare system. Had no action been taken, the rate of infection would have doubled roughly every five to seven days, resulting in approximately 25,000 new cases of COVID-19, as opposed to the current estimate of 7,000, reports Oregon Public Radio. Despite the encouraging headway, however, experts warn that letting up now could undo the progress thus far. Read more about what needs to happen next to continue to move the Beaver State in the right direction.

Gordon Lauded for COVID Response: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public health expert at the helm of the federal government’s COVID-19 response, had high praise for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon at a recent press conference, according to The Casper Star-Tribune. “I was really pleasantly – I wouldn’t say surprised because I expect it of this country, but to hear what they’re doing and the commitment they’re putting in to making sure that we don’t have the situations that we’ve experienced unfortunately in other areas,” Fauci said of the state’s response. Notably, Wyoming has just 275 confirmed and 98 probable cases as of April 13, and the state was the last in the country to report a death. Here’s why Gov. Gordon’s response has been so effective.

Temporary Shelter: A new mandate from Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services will allow for the utilization of “university dorms, hotel rooms and other buildings to temporarily quarantine and isolate health care workers and some homeless families if needed,” Alaska Public Media reports. The effort, supported by federal funding, comes as a part of the state’s larger response to COVID-19, which also includes an increased focus on testing and diagnosing the disease. Discover what else the Governor is doing to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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