Week 49: The pandemic in Wyoming from Feb. 13-19 - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Week 49: The pandemic in Wyoming from Feb. 13-19

Riverton resident Bill Burleson waits out the 15-minute observation period following his second COVID-19 vaccination shot Feb. 12, 2020 at the Fremont County Public Health office in Riverton. (Katie Klingsporn, WyoFile)

February 19, 2021 by Katie Klingsporn, WyoFile

Though Wyoming’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has picked up, the percentage of residents who say they’ll get vaccinated hasn’t followed suit. 

Some 62% of Wyoming residents say they are very or somewhat likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, or have already received at least one dose, according to a new survey by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center. That percentage hasn’t changed since early November. 

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Meanwhile, 7% of respondents say they are somewhat unlikely and 31% say they are very unlikely to receive it. Concerns about side effects remain a major reason.

“A majority of those who have not yet received the vaccine say they do not have enough information about the potential side effects,” Brian Harnisch, senior research scientist in charge of the project at WYSAC, said in a release. “Additionally, it appears that residents still have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as when and where people like them will be able to get the vaccine.”

Vaccine distribution continued to dominate the healthcare system across the state this week, with many providers inoculating residents farther down the state’s 1B priority group list. New vaccination sites also joined the distribution push, including Walmart stores. 

As of Thursday, more than 76,000 Wyoming residents had received a first dose, while more than 32,000 had gotten their second. The state has received 83,675 first doses and 43,700 second doses. 

“While overall available vaccine dose amounts remain low right now compared to high demand, we are seeing modest, continued increases in shipments we receive from the federal government of the authorized vaccines as well as more partners and providers coming on board,” Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with the Department of Health, said in a Feb. 12 release.

However, the wintry weather that slammed into much of the country since then has impacted vaccine shipments, the DOH said, likely causing delays. 

The state’s vaccine rollout has paralleled a steady decline of infections, and Wyoming’s COVID-19 metrics saw marked improvements again last week.

This graphic from the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s weekly state profile report of Wyoming tracks new COVID-19 cases. (beta.health.gov)

Attitudes in the WYSAC survey suggest a measure of relief — or perhaps fatigue — regarding these trends. 

Since November, the percentage of respondents who report being very or fairly anxious about the spread in Wyoming has dropped. A plurality of survey respondents, 35%, say they believe the worst is behind us in Wyoming. And the percentage of respondents who say they are following the news about COVID-19 “very closely” has declined, from a high of 57% in March to 29% in February. 

One thing that remains of high concern in Wyoming: the pandemic’s economic impact. Some 61% said they are very concerned about COVID-19’s effect on the economy, while 32% are somewhat concerned. 

Meanwhile, the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers continued a positive downward trend.

Known active cases dipped to 720 by Friday morning, down 11% from last week, and hospitalizations hit 32 by Thursday, the lowest that number has been since Oct. 4. The Department of Health reported 15 COVID-19 related deaths — the lowest weekly tally since the third week of October and eight fewer than last week — bringing the state’s total to 662. 

All told, Wyoming has tallied 45,471 lab-confirmed infections. That includes 356 new cases this week.

According to a Feb. 14 weekly report issued by the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, four Wyoming counties are in the “red” zone for infections, down one from the week before. They are Teton, Carbon, Bighorn and Converse. 

Crook and Niobrara counties, meanwhile, reported zero active cases by Friday morning. 

If vaccination goes favorably, the University of Wyoming is planning for a fall 2021 semester with more in-person experiences and fewer pandemic restrictions. 

UW faculty, staff and students living in residence halls are slated to be eligible for the vaccine as part of Wyoming’s 1c phase, according to UW. Under the college’s plan, faculty and staff members would need to have access to the vaccine at least six weeks ahead of the scheduled Aug. 23 start of the fall semester for the semester to proceed with face-to-face classes at maximum capacity, in-person student engagement programs and in-person athletic events.

“Much could change between now and the start of the fall semester, including transmission of new variants of the virus and other unforeseen developments,” UW President Ed Seidel said in a release. “However, we see great reason for optimism that we’ll have much more of a pre-pandemic campus environment this fall.”

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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: covid@cnchd.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.