Statewide mask mandate ordered through Jan. 8

The countywide order that requires residents to wear masks when indoors in public was extended on Friday, followed by a statewide mask mandate that is in effect until Jan. 8, 2021. (COURTESY PHOTO)

EVANSTON — Uinta County’s mask mandate has been extended through Jan. 8, 2021. In addition, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has now issued a statewide mask mandate beginning Wednesday, Dec. 9, that is also in effect through Jan. 8, 2021.

Gordon issued new statewide health orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, Dec. 7. Those orders include the public mask mandate for all adults and children over 12 years of age. Children ages 3-11 are encouraged to wear masks; however, masks are still required in K-12 schools whenever 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained.

The new health orders also include changes to the number of people who can be present at gatherings. Whereas previous health orders allowed for up to 25 people indoors with no restrictions, the new orders have decreased that number to 10. Indoor events may allow more than 10 people, provided COVID-19 precautions of masks and distancing between groups are utilized, up to a maximum of 100 people or 25% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller.

Outdoor events may also allow more than 10 individuals, provided masks and distancing between groups are in place, up to a maximum of 250 people or 50% of venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller. Additionally, participants in organized sporting events and artistic performances shall not congregate in groups larger than 12 (previously the limit was 25).

Bars and restaurants cannot be open for indoor consumption between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. under the new health orders, other than restaurants in travel centers and truck stops. Tables and booths are limited to groups of six, unless the individuals all reside in the same household. The same restrictions to group size also apply at movie and performance theaters. Group exercise classes are now limited to 10 participants, down from 25 previously.

In a press release from Gordon’s office, some of the orders are an attempt to reduce the operating hours of businesses where transmission may occur.

Gordon said, “Our state and those surrounding us are facing a hospital capacity crisis that now compels us to take additional action. All through the fall, Wyoming has seen a rise in serious cases of COVID to a point where every county is facing critical and dangerous levels of spread of the virus. Too many people have died.  Science tells us limiting gatherings of groups and using face coverings are effective in slowing transmission of this virus. With these actions we can avoid taking the more drastic step of closing schools and businesses.”

“I want to thank the majority of Wyoming counties who have taken the lead, and the people who are working hard to protect their friends, neighbors, and colleagues by wearing face coverings. They will make a big difference but it will take time. We stand behind the local actions that are in place. These new orders are meant to support local leadership and we should all know that in Wyoming these mandates are not about citations, but about caring for others,” Gordon said.

The Wyoming Medical Society and Wyoming Hospital Association have both expressed support and appreciation for the statewide health orders. In addition, all three Republican members of Wyoming’s Congressional delegation released a joint statement in support of Gordon’s health orders.

“Governor Gordon is committed to protecting Wyoming and his health orders reflect that. We’ve lost 280 people in Wyoming and more than 280,000 Americans to this virus so far. It’s a real and significant threat,” said Enzi, Barrasso and Cheney. “We’re especially worried about protecting our most vulnerable population from this deadly disease. It’s not a cure all, but wearing a mask and practicing social distancing goes a long way in stopping the spread. These actions will help protect our family, friends and neighbors while still allowing us to keep our state open and working.”

Gordon has recently gained firsthand experience with COVID-19, as both he and First Lady Jennie Gordon have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the past two weeks.

The new orders come as Wyoming’s COVID-19 metrics continue to be extremely concerning. Transmission indicators of cases per 100,000 population and test percent positivity are both in the red zone for most Wyoming counties. In fact, all 23 counties are in the red or dark red, signifying very high transmission, for number of cases per 100,000 population. Two counties — Hot Springs and Weston — are in the green zone for test percent positivity of less than 4.9% over the previous two weeks.

Uinta County is in the red zone for both indicators, with a transmission rate of 994 per 100,000 residents and a test percent positivity rate of 15.2% over the past two weeks. The dark red  indicating very high transmission levels are for a transmission rate of greater than 1,000 cases per 100,000 population and a test percent positivity rate of greater than 20% over the previous 14 days.

An additional 50 coronavirus-related fatalities in Wyoming have been announced since Thursday, with two of those Uinta County residents. One county fatality was described as an older woman who had been hospitalized in another state, while the other was an adult male who had been hospitalized and who had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19. There have now been 280 coronavirus-related fatalities in Wyoming, with 128 of those reported in November. There have been six confirmed fatalities in Uinta County.

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