CASPER, Wyo. – As parts of the nation reopen after COVID-19 shutdowns, health officials are becoming increasingly concerned about rapidly increasing cases.
Last week, Natrona County saw its highest single-day spike in numbers since the pandemic began. Yesterday the county added an additional 11 new cases, bringing the total number to 103 as of Wednesday, July 1.
“The only thing that we have working for us is hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks,” said WMC Chief of Staff Dr. Andy Dunn in a phone interview on Tuesday.
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“Unfortunately we don’t have any medication that’ll make this go away, that’s all we have.”
Dunn is also Chief of Primary Care for the Wyoming Health Medical Group, and was instrumental in forming the WMC’s Respiratory Symptom Screening Clinic at the start of the pandemic.
Dunn’s concern over the politicization of masks is shared by many in the health community who say the research is clear.
“Wearing masks will reduce the transition of COVID,” he said.
“The virus is sitting on droplets, it catches a ride on a water droplet and takes off. If you have a mask on, the ease of transmission by projection is going to be less.”
Dunn says numerous studies have shown that wearing a mask can reduce the distance water droplets travel, and are highly effective in reducing the virus’ spread. The key is for more people to wear masks, even if they do not appear to be sick.
A study published by DELVE (Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics) in May said that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of infections occur from people who are not showing symptoms. The same report found that cloth masks filtered viral spread during coughing from 50 percent to 100 percent compared to professional-grade medical masks.
“This evidence supports the conclusion that more widespread risk-based face mask adoption can help to control the Covid-19 epidemic by reducing the shedding of droplets into the environment from asymptomatic individuals,” the report said.
“What you are doing is you’re limiting your transmission to others by wearing a mask,” said Dunn.
Health officials say the recent spike of COVID cases nationwide is mainly among younger people, who generally don’t suffer the severe outcome from the disease that older people do.
Dunn cited a recent study that found up to 40 percent of young people who are infected with COVID are completely asymptomatic. Because of that, it’s easier for them to unwittingly spread the virus among the population, and eventually to those that are most vulnerable.
Hospitalizations in Wyoming due to COVID remain very low, but in other hot spots the hospitalization rate is spiking.
Dunn thinks due to our smaller rural population that Wyoming could see a three to four week delay delay between rising infections and related hospitalizations if the virus continues to spread and eventually reach more vulnerable people.
Dunn said until there’s a vaccine, the top three measures for coronavirus control are masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.
“If 80 percent of Natrona County did that, we’d be in great shape, and unfortunately we’re not anywhere close to that.”
“If we want things open, then people have to hold themselves and their peers accountable, they have to wear their masks,” said Dunn.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.