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Face Coverings Ordered, Hospitals Full, More Dead

Woman wearing a protective face mask (Courtesy Polina Tanlilevitch).

Woman wearing a protective face mask (Courtesy Polina Tanlilevitch).

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s office today announced additional steps to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus in Wyoming.

Today’s orders, signed by Wyoming State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, require face coverings in certain situations starting on Wednesday, Dec. 9. The order will remain in effect until Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, per the release from the governor’s office, unless extended or revoked by the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

Of Wyoming’s 23 counties, 16 counties and the Wind River Reservation already had requirements for face coverings through local requests to WDH (County 17, Dec. 3). For those counties with existing mandates very little will change.

To date, Campbell County Commissioners have chosen not to advance an application for a county-wide face covering mandate in the county. The commissioners did approve a resolution requiring county employees to wear masks in county buildings, but the desire to enact more stringent measures to combat COVID-19 have been lacking (County 17, Nov. 17).

The actions by the Governor and Dr. Harrist today come on the announcement by WDH of another 23 coronavirus-related deaths in Wyoming.

“These new orders are meant to support local leadership, and we should all know that in Wyoming these mandates are not about citations, but about caring for others,” Gordon said.

Today’s decision to require face coverings was endorsed by the Wyoming Medical Society, the Wyoming Primary Care Association, and the Wyoming Hospital Association.

“We realize that masks are not the cure for COVID, but we know they can be effective in slowing the spread of the virus,” said Eric Boley, CEO of the Wyoming Hospital Association. “Hospitals are reaching capacity and nursing homes are seeing increases in infection rates. Medical staff are exhausted and are wearing thin as they battle this disease. We need to slow the spread and flatten the curve until the vaccine is readily available.”

Face covering requirements

Today’s order from Dr. Harrist states:

  • Face coverings are to be worn by all members of the public outside of their home or other place of residence in the following situations:
    • “When any person is inside, or in line to enter, any business, or any government facility open to the general public, including state, county, and municipal buildings but excluding federal buildings;”
    • “When any person is obtaining services at, or visiting healthcare operations, including, but not limited to, hospitals, clinics, and walk-in health facilities, dentists, pharmacies, blood banks, other healthcare facilities, behavioral health providers, and facilities providing veterinary and similar healthcare services for animals;”
    • “When any person is waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit, or while they are riding in a taxi, private care service, shuttle, tour, or ride-sharing vehicle. The driver shall also wear a Face Covering when passengers are in the vehicle.”
  • A Face Covering is defined as “a covering made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face.”
  • All Wyoming businesses “must post notices, in a clearly visible location at or near the entrance of the business, stating that Face Coverings are required.”
  • All government facilities which are “open to the public, including state, county, and municipal buildings, but excluding federal buildings, must post notices, in a clearly visible location at or near the entrance of the building, that Face Coverings are required.”
  • “All employees, owners, and volunteers of businesses and employees and volunteers of government facilities open to the public, including state, county, and municipal buildings but excluding federal buildings, shall wear Face Coverings at their business or government facility when they are within 6 feet of customers, clients, other staff/workers, or volunteers. They must also wear a Face Covering when working or volunteering in a space that could be visited by members of the public.”
  • Face Coverings are NOT required in the following circumstances:
    • “When a person is in a personal office (a single room) where others outside of that person’s household are not present as long as the public does not regularly visit the room, but that individual must put on a Face Covering when they are within 6 feet of a client, customer, volunteer, worker, or other member of the public.”
    • For children who are under 12 years of age (though children three to 11 years old are encouraged to wear a Face Covering).
    • “When a person is seated at a table of a restaurant or other food service venue, the person is separated by at least 6 feet from other patrons at other tables, and no more than 6 people in total are seated at the table. If more than 6 individuals are seated at the table, but all individuals are members of the same household, this exception applies. This exception also applies if a person is seated at a booth. However, individuals shall wear a Face Covering while entering, exiting, or otherwise moving about the establishment.”
    • “When a person is inside or obtaining services at a location engaged primarily in provided congregate care, residential health care, or shelter care, and the individual is engaged in activities not conducive to wearing a Face Covering, such as eating or drinking, or the individual is in an area of that facility that is not designed for community gathering, such as a sleeping area.”
    • “If a person has a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents him or her from wearing a Face Covering.”
    • “Individuals who are hearing impaired, or communicating with an individual who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.”
    • Situations where the wearing of a Face Covering would create a risk to the person related to their work.
    • Any service “involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the Face Covering is necessary to perform the service.”
    • Any person who is purchasing or engaging in a service that requires identification “may briefly remove a Face Covering as necessary.”
    • “When actively exercising in a gym in accordance with the Statewide Public Health Orders, as amended.”
    • “When law enforcement asks an individual to remove a Face Covering for identification purposes.”

Hospitals full

Gordon’s comments with today’s announcement are consistent with self-reported data from Wyoming hospitals made available by the state.

The data shows Campbell County Memorial Hospital currently has 22 COVID-19 patients and all seven of the hospital’s adult ICU beds are full – none are available. Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has 58 COVID-19 patients with 13 adult ICU beds available (12 adult ICU beds are in use). Casper’s Wyoming Medical Center has 40 COVID-19 patients with only one available adult ICU bed (18 adult ICU beds are in use).

Chart: Total reported hospitalized COVID-19 patients over time (Courtesy State of Wyoming/Public Domain).
Chart: Total reported hospitalized COVID-19 patients over time (Courtesy State of Wyoming/Public Domain).

“Wyoming’s physicians and PAs are deeply grateful that the Governor has taken this critical action in leading our state to the other side of the pandemic,” said Sheila Bush, Executive Director of the Wyoming Medical Society.

Additional changes

The orders announced today also impact bars and restaurants who under the order will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for onsite consumption. Groups of patrons who are seated together at bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, and large events will be limited to six people. Group workout classes at gyms will now be limited to 10 people and gatherings without required social distancing will be limited to 10 individuals.

23 more deaths

WDH announced today 23 more coronavirus-related deaths in Wyoming, bringing the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the state to 280.

The state currently has 32,196 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 5,136 active cases. The state has had 27,060 recovered cases. There have been 6,547 confirmed cases within the past 14 days.

Campbell County currently has 3,037 lab confirmed cases with 544 total active cases. The county has had 2,493 recovered cases. Campbell County has also seen 17 deaths. Of the total, 601 confirmed cases were added in the past 14 days.

“We have said from the beginning that we will follow the science. We are at a critical juncture for our state,” the Governor said. “These next few months are going to be challenging for our businesses, citizens, families, and our healthcare workers. This is a necessary step to ensure a happy and healthy holiday season and a safer and Merry Christmas, and set ourselves in good stead for the new year. The deployment of the vaccine in the coming months will help put this awful virus finally at bay and bring us back to some semblance of normal.”

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More information

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.