At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring, the Wyoming Technology Coronavirus Coalition announced an ambitious strategy that would slow the coronavirus’s spread and minimize its effects on the Wyoming economy.
The WTCC’s ”Moonshot” project set a deadline of July 1 to develop a comprehensive and data-driven approach to helping communities throughout Wyoming fight the pandemic. Within that short time, the WTCC delivered on that promise.
“What the Moonshot team was able to accomplish was remarkable,” Renny MacKay, policy director for Gov. Mark Gordon, said in a statement. “I have learned a lot from this group, and they reflect the ingenuity and can-do spirit of all Wyoming people.”
The report provided Wyoming communities with a roadmap on establishing baseline coronavirus cases in their area. It offered guidance on testing and quarantining methods that would keep businesses and their workers safe, thus giving communities more options to fight the spread and prevent further negative impacts on their local economies.
Dana Miller Eiland, the owner of Sign Boss in Gillette, a project manager in charge of the Moonshot project, along with Tyler Harrison of Cheyenne, said it would not have been possible without the WTCC volunteer researchers.
“The Moonshot project is the mission that drew out the very best of our community,” Eiland said, regarding mobilizing more than 20 volunteer researchers with a wide array of expertise and talent into action to address a big problem with limited resources and time.
In just under three months, the WTCC has brought together a diverse group of volunteers well-versed in technology, science and public health who collectively wrote what Eiland said was the most comprehensive report outlining the best evidence-based methods to fight COVID-19 in Wyoming.
This effort, she said, has raised the group’s visibility among state decision-makers and presented the WTCC with a unique opportunity to affect change throughout the state.
However, Eiland said as the WTCC prepared its report and Wyoming began its phased reopening schedule, “it became obvious as we prepared the report that the solution is not as simple as offering testing to every resident, because a single test cannot validate that anyone will be safe from infecting others, even in the near future.”
Eiland and the team realized a more nuanced approach was needed to fight COVID-19 in Wyoming. The finished report addressed the shortcomings of a mass statewide testing initiative. It offered alternative technologies, like saliva testing and wastewater monitoring, as options state leaders could adopt in their targeted strategies to stop the spread and contain the virus in their communities.
The emerging technologies mentioned in the report caught the attention of Noah Hull, microbiology laboratories manager at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, whose team was also already looking at new tests being approved to fight the novel coronavirus.
In addition to the report, the Moonshot project team also maintains a database of new tests approved under the Emergency Use Authorization process, and coordinates with Hull and his team about testing and contacts researchers around the country working on similar projects.
Hull said knowing the WTCC had this information readily available, along with a dedicated team available to answer specific scientific questions and conduct literature reviews, made collaborating the next logical step.
“In the end, it’s taking this information and making it easy to understand for the public,” Hull said in a statement.
In the weeks to come, WTCC plans further actions that will leverage technology and the collective work of its volunteers to aid in not only the state’s effort to fight COVID-19 but the necessary work of rebuilding Wyoming’s economy in the aftermath of a global pandemic, according to Eric Trowbridge, CEO of the Array School of Design and Technology and WTCC founder.
Trowbridge said he does not want to see the collective talent of the WTCC’s 300-plus volunteer community disappear once the pandemic is under control, instead seeing a new and necessary role for the WTCC in rebuilding Wyoming’s economy in the post-pandemic world.
“What the virus has taught us is that there’s no going back to the way it was,” Trowbridge said in a statement. “So why not take what we’ve learned during this pandemic and apply those lesson toward building a stronger and more resilient version of Wyoming for the 21st century? Something we at the WTCC are calling Wyoming 2.0.”