CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming will not return to a statewide mask order or require COVID-19 vaccines despite a resurgence of the virus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.
“The issue is not masks, the issue is COVID,” Gordon, a Republican, said in a news conference. “Here’s the thing: We already know what to do. We’ve been through this before.”
Gordon imposed a statewide mask mandate in December and lifted it in March. Even so, mandates can cause some people to resist wearing masks, he said.
“We know that there's value to masks and we recommend those masks. We also know people have very strong concerns about masks,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he also didn’t expect any shutdowns like the public health orders that forced many Wyoming businesses and public places to close or limit occupancy through much of 2020 and into 2021.
Gordon made the remarks as COVID-19 infections, because of the delta variant circulating worldwide, were back to levels unseen in Wyoming since January, though still roughly four times less than at the pandemic's worst last November.
Laramie County on Monday had the state's highest infection rate, 698 per 100,000 people, followed by Natrona (469) and Campbell (324) counties, according to the Wyoming Department of Health
More than 100 people were hospitalized with the virus in Wyoming, the most since early January. Almost 250 people were hospitalized during the worst of the pandemic in late November, according to the department.
“Hospitalizations strain doctors and nurses. It also means our hospital beds are tied up with COVID patients, which tie up our treatment of patients with other conditions,” Gordon said.
Gordon encouraged people to get vaccinated — “if you're willing" — like he and his wife, Jennie, have done. Wyoming has one of the nation's lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, about 37%, according to Becker's Hospital Review.
A Gordon staffer who was vaccinated tested positive for COVID-19 last week, causing the governor's office to close for deep cleaning Thursday and Friday. Gordon said he was in the office little last week and tested negative for the virus.