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Delta variant dominant in Wyoming, health department ‘deeply’ concerned

WYOMING — Wyoming’s fight against COVID-19 appears to be entering a new, concerning phase due to the Delta variant, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the Delta variant is dominant in Wyoming right now, with most new cases in the state likely linked to the variant. “After months of relatively stable case numbers we have recently seen a sharp increase in most areas of the state,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned. The Delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant,” Harrist said.

Harrist mentioned that while the Delta variant is rapidly changing Wyoming’s COVID-19 situation, the authorized vaccines continue to offer excellent protection from infection, including against the Delta variant.

A WDH review of more than 5,000 lab-confirmed and probable cases identified among Wyoming residents age 16 and older between May 1 and July 28 shows roughly 95 percent of the individuals do not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. During the same period, of the nearly 300 persons infected by COVID-19 who were hospitalized at the time they were interviewed by public health representatives, just under 94 percent did not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exhibit Wyoming’s low vaccination numbers. Source: The New York Times

“However, no vaccine can prevent all infections and that’s why we see a small percentage of what we call ‘breakthrough’ cases,” Harrist said. “The overwhelming majority of ‘breakthrough’ cases that are identified do not involve serious illness. In other words, vaccines certainly help keep you from getting COVID-19 in the first place, but if you do get it you are far less likely to get severely ill.”

“The Delta variant must be taken seriously because it spreads much more easily between people than the COVID-19 we’ve become familiar with,” Harrist said.“There are also concerns from experts that as the Delta variant spreads the number of breakthrough cases will increase.”

Harrist explained that the fight against the Delta variant may be harder than the first time around. But now, citizens have more power by getting vaccinated and following new guidance.

“Because the Delta variant is essentially like COVID-19 upping its game against us, we have to fight back a little harder for now,” Harrist said.

“We’ve been recommending that unvaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings. National experts now recommend the same for vaccinated residents in areas with high COVID-19 rates and we agree,” Harrist said.

Wyoming’s county transmission indicators are slightly different than Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures and are adjusted to account for the state’s low population. The color-coded information is updated weekly and can be found here.

“At this time, indoor public mask use is recommended for anyone living in a yellow, orange, red or dark red area of Wyoming according to our department’s measures,” Harrist said.

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