A recent spike in new COVID-19 cases from the highly contagious Delta variant has raised alarm bells as low statewide vaccination rates could make Wyoming residents increasingly vulnerable, state health officials said Wednesday.
The Delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in within Wyoming’s borders with most new cases likely linked to the variant, according to Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
“We are deeply concerned. The Delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands,” Harrist said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant.”
Authorized COVID-19 vaccines, Harrist said, continue to be highly effective against preventing infection against the virus, including the Delta variant.
In a recent review by the department of 5,000 lab-confirmed and probable cases, as well as nearly 300 cases that required hospitalization, roughly 95 percent of those residents reported not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“However, no vaccine can prevent all infections and that’s why we see a small percentage of what we call ‘breakthrough’ cases,” Harrist said in a statement. “The overwhelming majority of ‘breakthrough’ cases that are identified do not involve serious illness.”
The number of breakthrough cases could increase in the coming days, Harrist noted, with the Delta variant spreading much more easily between people than the original COVID-19 virus.
“Because the Delta variant is essentially like COVID-19 upping its game against use, we have to fight back a little harder for now,” Harrist said.
The WDH now recommends that all residents, vaccinated or not, wear approved face coverings within any public indoor space in nearly every county in Wyoming aside from Crook, Hot Springs, Johnson, Niobrara, and Washakie which have the lowest infection rates.