CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — The coronavirus has hospitalized more people in Wyoming than at any point in the COVID-19 pandemic, with one public health officer saying the situation is “like a war zone” at one of the state’s biggest hospitals.

Wyoming hospitals had 249 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, topping the previous high of 247 in November.

The vast majority weren’t vaccinated. Unvaccinated people have accounted for 98% of all new cases in Wyoming since May 1, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Wyoming’s surge coincided with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., currently about 43%. Only West Virginia ranks lower for COVID-19 vaccination. The strain on Wyoming hospitals, meanwhile, has been more prolonged than previously.

Last fall and winter, hospitalizations stayed above 200 for about three weeks. This year, they have hovered around 200 since early September. Wyoming Medical Center in Casper has been treating about 30% of Wyoming’s COVID-19 patients but lately has been denying transfer requests.

“It’s like a war zone,” the Casper area’s health officer, Dr. Mark Dowell, told a county health board Thursday. “The ICU is overrun and there are a lot of patients being admitted.”
Nearly all hospitals in Wyoming are quite small — smaller than those in Casper and Cheyenne, which are licensed for just over 200 beds.

Five Wyoming hospitals have at some point gone into crisis care during the current surge, meaning they did not have adequate resources to care for all patients.