Wyoming to require masks in new round of COVID-19 measures

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming will require face coverings in public indoor spaces, reduce bar and restaurant hours and further limit gathering sizes in response to this fall’s surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Monday.

The changes take effect Wednesday and will remain in place until at least Jan. 8.

“Too many people have died,” Gordon said in a statement. “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.”

Gordon up to now had resisted ordering face masks amid widespread resistance to coronavirus public health orders in Wyoming.

Some law enforcement officials, meanwhile, have expressed little interest in enforcing mask orders despite their effectiveness in reducing spread of the virus through the population.

Even so, 16 of Wyoming’s 23 counties have implemented local mask orders with approval from state health officials. Wyoming’s attorney general’s office has been reviewing the orders to make sure they’re legal, State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said in a news conference Monday.

State officials recognize the need to balance the strain of public-health orders against their proven benefit in controlling the virus, Harrist said.

“We certainly understand these orders have a real impact on people,” Harrist said.

Under the new public health orders:

— Bars and restaurants, with the exception of those at truck stops and other travel centers, must close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

— No more than six people who aren’t from the same household may sit together at bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls and larger events. The current limit is eight.

— No more than 10 people may take part in group workout classes.

— No more than 10 people may gather without keeping at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart, down from the present limit of 25. Outdoor gatherings may exceed 10 people but not 50% of venue capacity and can’t exceed 250 people.

— Participants in organized sporting events and artistic performances may not congregate in groups larger than 12, down from 25.

The Wyoming Medical Society, Wyoming Primary Care Association and Wyoming Hospital Association support the changes, according to the governor’s office.

As of Monday, about 5,100 people in Wyoming, or 1 in 113 residents, had the coronavirus and had not yet recovered, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The number was up about 10-fold from last summer. Wyoming’s 280 COVID-19 deaths to date include 128 in November alone.

Over 200 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Wyoming, down from almost 250 a week ago but still double the number in late October and 10 times the number in late September.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some people, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

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