State mask order goes into effect
December 10, 2020
A statewide mask order goes into effect this week in an effort to address an increase in hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 while keeping businesses open, according to an announcement from Governor Mark Gordon. Unless the order is revoked before it expires on January 8, face coverings will be required for the next month in most public places.
“Our state and those surrounding us are facing a hospital capacity crisis that now compels us to take additional action. All through the fall, Wyoming has seen a rise in serious cases of COVID to a point where every county is facing critical and dangerous levels of spread of the virus. Too many people have died,” Gordon said in the announcement.
“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.”
The new orders include additional changes aimed at slowing the spread. Bars and restaurants will now be asked to close for onsite consumption between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. (except travel centers and truck stops) while patrons at places such as bars, restaurants and events will be limited to groups of six instead of eight.
Group workout classes at gyms are now limited to ten individuals instead of 25 and gatherings without required distancing will also be limited to ten. Events may allow more than ten individuals, but only up to 25% of venue capacity to a maximum of 100 people if indoors, while outdoor events may only allow up to 50% of venue capacity to a maximum of 250 people.
The mask order supersedes the county-level order imposed last week, when Crook County joined 15 other Wyoming counties in requiring face coverings. However, the two orders are essentially the same.
“I want to thank the majority of Wyoming counties who have taken the lead, and the people who are working hard to protect their friends, neighbors and colleagues by wearing face coverings. They will make a big difference but it will take time,” said Gordon.
“We stand behind the local actions that are in place. These new orders are meant to support local leadership and we should all know that in Wyoming these mandates are not about citations, but about caring for others.”
The order has been endorsed by the Wyoming Medical Society, the Wyoming Primary Care Association and the Wyoming Hospital Association.
“We realize that masks are not the cure for COVID, but we know they can be effective in slowing the spread of the virus,” said Eric Boley, CEO of the Wyoming Hospital Association.
“Hospitals are reaching capacity and nursing homes are seeing increases in infection rates. Medical staff are exhausted and are wearing thin as they battle this disease. We need to slow the spread and flatten the curve until the vaccine is readily available. It is all worth it if one life is saved by wearing masks.”
The local situation continues to see new cases added almost every day. CEO Micki Lyons reports that county medical providers are still “holding our own,” but are seeing COVID-19 in the clinics and hospital on a daily basis.
With lower infection numbers being reported over the last few days and high numbers of recoveries continuing to drive down the active case count, Lyons wonders if, “maybe we’re on a downtick.” However, as this may also be due to the interruption in reporting caused by the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, she also cautions that, “We’ll see.”
One problem our county healthcare system is currently facing is that test kits are beginning to run low. Crook County Medical Services District has only a certain number of the rapid and standard state tests left and has implemented new protocols.
If you are a local resident and symptomatic, Lyons says, you will likely still be given a rapid test, for which results can be available in as little as 20 minutes. However, if you are a visitor to the county or need a test for purposes such as travel, you will likely be given the standard test, which must be sent to the state lab for processing.
The Centers for Disease Control has now suggested that quarantine times for those diagnosed with COVID-19 be reduced from 14 days to between seven and ten days in an effort to boost compliance.
“We’ve been following the CDC guidelines this whole time so whatever they come out with is most likely what we’ll do,” says Lyons of implementing this locally.
Of the 280 deaths due to COVID-19 that have been recorded in Wyoming since the beginning of the pandemic, 128 took place in November.
This includes 50 deaths in the last week. One of those was reported to be an older Crook County woman who was hospitalized and had health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk.
The mask order requires all persons to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth while outside their place of residence and in certain situations: while inside or in line to enter a business or government facility (excluding federal buildings); at any healthcare operation; and while waiting for or riding on public transportation or riding in a taxi or private car service.
All businesses and government facilities are required to post notices in a clearly visible location near the entrance stating that face coverings are required. Employees of businesses and government facilities must wear face coverings while within six feet of other people or in a space that could be visited by members of the public, such as restrooms and hallways.
There are numerous exceptions to the mask order, including that it does not apply to children under the age of 12 (although a face covering is still encouraged). Employees working in a personal office do not need to wear a mask unless members of the public regularly visit that room.
When seated at a food service venue and at least six feet from other patrons, a face covering is not required. However, a mask should be worn while entering, exiting and moving around.
Masks are not required while inside or obtaining services at a location providing congregate care, residential health care or shelter care if you are engaged in activities that are not conducive to wearing a face covering, such as eating or drinking, or if you are in an area not designed for community gathering, such as a sleeping area.
Persons with medical or mental health conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face covering are also exempt. Documentation to demonstrate this is not required.
Hearing impaired individuals and those communicating with hearing impaired individuals are also exempt if the ability to see the mouth is essential. Individuals for whom a face covering would create a risk related to their work as determined by workplace safety guidelines are also exempt.
Exemptions also include while obtaining a service involving the nose or face; briefly while purchasing a product or receiving a service that requires identification so this can be verified; while actively exercising in a gym; and when asked by law enforcement to remove a face covering for identification purposes.
The Emergency Operations Center has recently received a batch of 13,500 face coverings from the Wyoming Department of Health and welcomes any member of the community who is in need of one to contact Crook County Public Health. Masks are available in packs of five in adult and youth sizes.