Masks are back

A sign outside Jeff and Rita Lewis’ Gillette home in March shows the Mona Lisa holding hand sanitizer and toilet paper while wearing a face mask.

When it comes to transmission of COVID-19, Campbell County is at a moderate level, which is enough for the Wyoming Department of Health to recommend people wear masks in public buildings.

From July 14-27, Campbell County had 153 cases per 100,000, a 6.8% positivity rate, and 53 active cases. To fall within the yellow zone, for moderate transmission levels, a county must have 20-100 cases per 100,000 population and 5% to 7.9% test positivity over the previous 14 days.

Wyoming’s county transmission indicators are slightly different than Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures and are adjusted to account for the state’s low population. The color-coded information is updated weekly and can be found online at

Campbell County is in the yellow zone, which is the fourth most severe. Sublette County is the only Wyoming county in the red zone, which means high transmission. Seven other counties are in the orange zone, meaning they have moderate to high transmission levels.

Indoor public mask use is recommended for anyone living in a yellow, orange, red or dark red zone, said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.

“We’ve been recommending that unvaccinated people wears masks in indoor public settings. National experts now recommend the same for vaccinated residents in areas with high COVID-19 rates and we agree,” Harrist said.

Wyoming’s fight against COVID-19 appears to be entering a new, concerning phase due to the Delta variant, Harrist said.

The delta variant is dominant in Wyoming right now, with most new cases in the state likely linked to the variant.

“After months of relatively stable case numbers we have recently seen a sharp increase in most areas of the state,” Harrist said in a press release. “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 noted that while the delta variant is rapidly changing Wyoming’s COVID-19 situation, the authorized vaccines continue to offer excellent protection from infection, including against the variant.

A WDH review of more than 5,000 lab-confirmed and probable cases identified among Wyoming residents age 16 and older between May 1 and July 28 shows roughly 95% of the individuals do not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. During the same period, of the nearly 300 people infected by COVID-19 who were hospitalized at the time they were interviewed by public health representatives, just under 94% did not report being fully 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. “The overwhelming majority of ‘breakthrough’ cases that are identified do not involve serious illness. 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."

People must take the delta variant seriously because it spreads more easily, Harrist said.

“There are also concerns from experts that as the delta variant spreads the number of breakthrough cases will increase,” she said. “Because the delta variant is essentially like COVID-19 upping its game against us, we have to fight back a little harder for now.”

Because getting a COVID-19 vaccine remains the most important and effective way to fight back against COVID-19, WDH is reminding residents that free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations remain readily available across Wyoming. Higher vaccination rates will help protect those who aren’t eligible for vaccination such as young children.

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