Dowell: Natrona's COVID situation 'incredibly' improved; Macy's could be mass vaccination venue - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Dowell: Natrona’s COVID situation ‘incredibly’ improved; Macy’s could be mass vaccination venue

A line of vehicles at the Wyoming Medical Center’s Respiratory Clinic stretches nearly around a full block on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

UPDATE: The Casper-Natrona County Health Department said on Wednesday that while the Eastridge Mall has offered the Macy’s space as a potential spot for public COVID vaccinations, plans remain in flux. Details are available in this article.

CASPER, Wyo —  “Things are looking up” for Natrona County’s battle against the COVID-19 crisis, according to Wyoming Medical Center infectious disease specialist and county health officer Dr. Mark Dowell.

Dowell gave a public update on declining hospitalizations, the UK variant, and vaccination plans in a self-taped address Tuesday, Jan 19.

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Dowell said the hospitalization crisis has “incredibly improved” since a dramatic spike in cases last fall.

Dowell said there were only 11-15 patients hospitalized with COVID at any given time, and that few, if any, were in intensive care.

On Nov 25, WMC saw a peak of 75 patients hospitalized.

Dowell also addressed the UK variant of the virus, the first case of which was confirmed in Teton County on Saturday.

“The question is always, ‘does it matter?’” Dowell said.

Dowell said the while the variant is not “more aggressive,” it is somewhat more transmissible. He said he was optimistic that the vaccine will work for the mutations for the foreseeable future.

As long as people kept up masking, social distancing, and hygienic practices, “it shouldn’t be an issue,” he said.

For those who are “half-assed” in these practices, however, “it could be a real issue.”

Dowell said it was unclear how much of the vaccine the CNCHD would be getting in the next month, though he assured those that had already gotten their first does that they would be prioritized for getting the second to complete the inoculation.

He also said he was optimistic that the incoming Joe Biden Presidential administration would make good on its intention to ramp up vaccine delivery. Biden said he aimed to deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

Dowell said that as more people become eligible, a mass vaccination clinic would be set up at Macy’s at the Eastridge Mall.

The Natrona County Commission said at a work session on Tuesday that the mall was offering the space for free.

The CNCHD has plans in place to roll out the vaccine in a phased approach. At the current stage, people 70 years of age and up are eligible to set up appointments to receive a first dose.

Dowell said he hoped to soon open up vaccinations to those aged 60-70, especially if they had other medical concerns.

He addressed public concerns on the safety of the vaccine, saying “a ton of my patients and friends” have gotten it, and though some have had side effects,  a “majority” have had none.

Dowell urged younger people who were skeptical to “step up” to be vaccination when they were eligible, and that vaccination and continued mitigation practices were essential in order for life to resume something like normalcy in the summer and fall.

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Dr. Dowell as director of the CNCHD.Oil City News regrets the error.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email:

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.