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No decision on vaccine incentives that could help City of Casper avoid ‘cataclysmic absences’

The first COVID-19 vaccines in Natrona County were issued on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at the Casper-Natrona County Health Department. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council on Tuesday, September 21 discussed a proposed vaccine incentive program that would aim to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate among City of Casper employees and their families.

City Manager Carter Napier told the city council that 141 employees, or 16% of the city’s workforce, have been forced to isolate or quarantine since the end of July. He said that 60 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and the city has calculated that 80-90% of those employees have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Of the 60 employees who contracted COVID-19, Napier said that 43 work in public safety or critical infrastructure positions for police, fire, water, waste water or streets departments.

Napier told the council that he recommended the city take some proactive steps in order to help the city avoid “cataclysmic absences” among employees.

The city saw a high of 45 employees out in one week due to COVID-19 infection or exposure.

Some council members like Bruce Knell and Lisa Engebretsen expressed opposition to using CARES Act funding allocated to the city for the vaccine incentive program. Others like Council members Kyle Gamroth and Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco expressed support for the proposal.

Since several council members were absent on Tuesday and the council was set to welcome a new member, Mayor Steve Freel said that he thought the council should wait to give direction on whether to move forward on the vaccine incentive program.

Details of the payments and how the program would be funded are available in this article.

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.