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Wyoming health officer urges masks indoors for most of state

August 4, 2021 GMT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike should resume wearing masks indoors in most of Wyoming amid a rise in infections of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, the state health officer said Wednesday.

Fifteen of Wyoming’s 23 counties had moderate to high virus transmission, according to a health department dashboard. They included Laramie, Campbell, Sweetwater, Albany and Fremont counties.

People should wear masks indoors in those and 10 other counties, said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer.

“We are deeply concerned. The delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant,” Harrist said.

A recent survey of more than 5,000 people with lab-confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in Wyoming showed that 95% were not fully vaccinated against the virus, the health department said.

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About one-third of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the department.

That’s one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the U.S. Vaccination rates are almost twice as high in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine as in Wyoming, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

Virus transmission was relatively low and a mask recommendation wasn’t in place for Natrona, Sheridan, Johnson, Crook, Washakie, Weston, Hot Springs and Niobrara counties. Still, unvaccinated people everywhere in Wyoming should wear masks indoors, Harrist said.

No vaccine can prevent all infections, but the overwhelming majority of vaccinated people who get COVID-19 don’t become seriously ill, the health officer said.

“In other words, vaccines certainly help keep you from getting COVID-19 in the first place, but if you do get it, you are far less likely to get severely ill,” Harrist said.

Newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming have crept back up above 90 per day after falling below 50 per day last spring. They topped 600 a day in November.

The virus had killed 786 people from Wyoming.