Should Wyoming Mask Up? State Health Officer Says Yes
Written by Andrew-Rossi on August 3, 2021
State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist makes her professional opinion known: to keep Wyoming safe, Wyomingites should wear face masks indoors.
The fight against COVID-19 is getting urgent once again. With the highly contagious Delta variant creating a surge of cases nationwide, many states and cities are reinstituting precautionary measures like face masks. But what about Wyoming?
The Casper Star Tribune reports State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist weighs in on the issue. In her medical opinion, Wyoming residents – vaccinated and unvaccinated – should mask up.
Dr. Harrist’s reasoning is simple – 15 of 23 Wyoming counties currently have a high risk of community transmission, mainly due to the Delta variant.
The Delta variant is an evolved strain of COVID-19. Unlike the Alpha variant of 2020, this strain is 50-60% more contagious and is not stopped by any vaccines developed over the past year. Currently, the Delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Wyoming.
Dr. Harrist states that vaccinated people can still contract the Delta variant. However, the vaccine is much better at preventing the more severe symptoms of the virus.
The risk level varies depending on which person or entity is analyzing information. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have community transmission as High for 19 Wyoming counties.
In response to the Delta variant, the C.D.C. encourages American citizens to cover up once again. On July 27, the C.D.C. recommended that all citizens wear masks in public indoor spaces. This is especially true in areas with high COVID-19 infection rates – like most counties in Wyoming.
This recommendation is a change in policy for the C.D.C. In May, vaccinated individuals were told masks were no longer needed in crowded indoor spaces.
It doesn’t help that Wyoming is also among the least-vaccinated states in the country, raking fourth-lowest both for partial and complete vaccination. At last estimate, only 33% of Wyoming residents are fully vaccinated. Furthermore, national surveys identify Wyoming as having the communities most reluctant to accept vaccination.
While Dr. Harrist has stated her opinion on masks, it isn’t a rule or a public health order. There is currently no indication that any of Wyoming’s public health orders will be reinstated.
Governor Mark Gordon rescinded the statewide mask mandate on March 16. On numerous occasions, he has said he has no plans to reimpose the mandate while encouraging Wyomingites to follow recommendations from medical professionals like Dr. Harrist.
Still, it seems the Delta variant isn’t going anywhere. So unless some great changes occur, COVID-19 will infect everyday life, and Wyoming might find itself restricted once again.