SWEETWATER COUNTY — In response to Governor Mark Gordon’s statement about not imposing a statewide mask mandate yet, Sweetwater County Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon said the majority of counties will now pursue a mask mandate variance on their own.
After listening to Governor Gordon speak about the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic at his press conference this morning, public health officers from across the state met virtually today to discuss what steps they will take next, Stachon said.
They focused on one comment Governor Gordon said in particular, “From the start, we said there was the opportunity for a variance at a local level. They have my support because they know what the conditions are on the ground.”
“It’s our invitation from the Governor to step up and do our job,” Stachon said.
With this in mind, “a sizable group” of county public health officials are seeking a mask mandate variance for their specific counties, she said.
“I’ll be one of them,” Stachon said.
Even though Stachon is going to pursue a mask mandate, she said she agrees with Governor Gordon that more needs to be done than just wearing masks.
“This is only a portion of what people need to do,” Stachon said.
Residents not only need to wear masks, but continue social distancing, washing their hands, and staying home from school or work when they are sick.
“It’s not a lot to ask,” Stachon said.
As for how long it might take for the variance requests to be approved, Stachon isn’t sure. She knows a lot of counties will be filing for variances at the same time. However, since other counties have already filed for variances, they have clear direction on what needs to be done in order to file for a variance.
Stachon said they are learning as they go and it’s important to move forward quickly because of the community spread Sweetwater County is seeing. She said Sweetwater and 17 other counties are in the red zone and that’s not where it should be.
According to Kim White, the MHSC’s Clinical Documentation Specialist and COVID-19 Preparedness Incident Commander, Sweetwater County currently has four COVID-19 related hospitalizations and they have four out of their nine Intensive Care Unit beds available.
In the last seven days, the hospital has seen a 31.4 percent positivity rate, this is compared to a 20 percent positivity rate for the prior seven-day time period. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, Wyoming’s overall positivity rate for the past 14 days is 11.42 percent.
“We are seeing an increase in testing and in a large part, I feel this is attributable to the increase in positive cases,” White said. “Public Health recommends testing for close contacts and of course many employers are requiring this as well. As we continue to have more positive cases, I am sure we will continue to see an increase in the number of those getting tested.”
Stachon said while some companies are requiring employees to be tested, the majority of those receiving tests have been voluntary.
“People aren’t being mandated to test. People are willingly going out to get tested,” Stachon said.
“It’s because we’ve got widespread (COVID-19) in our community that our numbers are going up,” Stachon said.
She believes while most people are wearing their masks when at school or at work, they are not doing the same when at small gatherings with friends and family members outside of their household. This is contributing to the spread and why there are so many active cases right now. According to the WDH, Sweetwater County currently has more than 275 active cases.
“There’s no curve. They’re heading straight up,” Stachon said about the number of cases being reported.
She said even if everyone in the county started following the guidelines tomorrow, it would would probably take two to three weeks to see a change.
THE LATEST COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS NEWS & INFO FROM THE WYOMING DEPT. OF HEALTH
What to do if you feel sick: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and are showing symptoms, please call your primary care provider or seek medical attention.
Please follow these tips to slow the spread of this virus:
- Follow Public Health Orders
- Practice social distancing of 6 feet or more.
- Wear cloth face coverings in public settings, especially when physical distancing of at least 6 feet isn’t available.
- Stay home when sick and avoid other people unless you need medical attention.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Older people and those with health conditions that mean they have a higher chance of getting seriously ill should avoid close-contact situations.
- Long-term care and healthcare facilities should follow guidelines for infection control and prevention.
For current news, updates, closures and resources, please visit our COVID-19 Coronavirus page here.