EVANSTON — Wyoming’s statewide mask mandate has been extended through Jan. 25 after Gov. Mark Gordon extended the order that was originally set to expire on Jan. 8. Three other statewide health orders have also been extended, though some modifications were made to business operating hours for bars and restaurants and the number of people able to participate in group fitness classes at one time.
A press release from Gordon’s office issued on Saturday, Jan. 2, said bars and restaurants will be able to resume on-site consumption between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., beginning on Jan. 9. The revised orders also allow for an increase in the number of participants in group fitness classes from 10 to 25.
In the press release, Gordon said, “Thank you to the people of Wyoming who recognized the strain on their hospitals and health care workers and acted accordingly. I also want to express my gratitude to those businesses that adapted to these temporary measures. These have not been easy times for anyone. We are not out of the woods yet, but continued personal safety measures while the vaccine is being distributed will enable our state’s schools and businesses to continue to remain open.”
The modifications come after a significant decrease in the number of hospitalizations in the state, with 113 hospitalizations reported on Dec. 30, down from a high of 247 on Nov. 30. The decrease in hospitalizations is welcome news; however, there were also 223 COVID-19 fatalities reported in Wyoming in December, approximately half of all deaths since the pandemic began last March.
A document released from the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) provides additional guidance on the massive COVID-19 vaccination program that has begun in recent weeks since the emergency use authorization granted by the federal government for two vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Uinta County received 700 doses of the Moderna vaccine in December and the tentative plan released by WDH is for the county to receive another 700 doses in January, in addition to another 700 doses required for people already vaccinated to receive a second dose. This would mean that approximately 1,400, or about 7%, of the county’s population could have either started or completed vaccinations by the end of this month.
It should be noted, however, that children 18 and under are not eligible at the present time to be vaccinated as the clinical trials that provided the basis for the emergency use authorization were only conducted with adults.
The WDH has also released more details on the next phase of vaccinations, including the phase 1b priority designation. While frontline healthcare workers account for the bulk of those receiving 1a priority designations, according to the WDH guidance document, “through the following Phase 1b designations, WDH aims to prevent mortality and morbidity and preserve societal functioning. Generally speaking, phase 1b critical populations are persons 70 years of age or older and frontline essential workers who must interact with the public and are unable to consistently physically distance from others.”
Specifically, the subgroups in phase 1b include fire, police, 911, correctional staff, search and rescue and other in-person emergency personnel not included in phase 1a; funeral service practitioners; people age 70 or older; National Guard members likely to be activated for pandemic response; in-person employees within congregate settings like group homes and child and youth-serving facilities; healthcare and behavioral health providers and social workers unable to provide services through telehealth; K-12 education teachers and support staff; child care service providers; public transit employees; grocery store employees, commercial meat processing employees and other food supply chain employees; and US. Postal service and other delivery service employees.
Active case numbers across Wyoming and in Uinta County specifically have decreased since mid-November when the county’s mask mandate went into effect. As of Monday, Jan. 4, the Wyoming Information Sharing Platform (WISP) reported 69 active cases in Uinta County, with seven confirmed fatalities. The WISP reported 1,389 active cases statewide out of a total of 45,247 cases since the pandemic began, with 438 fatalities.