Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Vaccine guidance updated to include some over-65s

Priority list released for next phases as Wyoming experiences another quiet week for COVID-19

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has released guidance for the third tier of COVID-19 vaccinations, while also making tweaks to the second tier that will allow some people over the age of 65 to be vaccinated at this time. Counties across the state are currently either vaccinating those in the Phase 1b priority groups or still working through Phase 1a.

Persons aged 65 or above have now been added to the Phase 1b group if they fall into one of the following categories: healthcare and behavioral health providers and social workers who are unable to physically distance; K-12 education staff; and child care or adult daycare providers.

Public health providers in Wyoming may move on to the third tier of priorities, known as Phase 1c, once they have exhausted all candidates in the first and second tiers. This third phase generally addresses people at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19 and workers who provide essential critical infrastructure.

The sub-groups for Phase 1c include homeless people, residents of congregate care or living settings including prisons and jails, people living in college dormitories and essential critical infrastructure workforce who are unable to physically distance or telework.

This latter group has been identified in a December memo from Brandon Wales, Acting Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The ability of these workers to perform their jobs safely is critical to our nation’s ability to maintain resilience of national critical functions,” says Wales in that memo.

The list of workers is now in its fourth version because it has evolved over time, “based on lessons learned from the pandemic and as additional essential workers returned to work,” according to Wales.

It includes, but is not limited to, critical manufacturing, energy, legal, communications and information technology, financial services, community or government-based operations and essential functions, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, education, food and agriculture, public works and infrastructure support services, hygiene products and services, residential/shelter facilities, housing and real estate, hazardous materials, healthcare and public health and commercial facilities.

According to WDH, this will be followed by Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign, which will be more generally open to the public.

“WDH expects the vaccine will be in greater supply and will likely be available to anyone who would like to receive it. Individuals with limited access to healthcare and vaccines will be a focus for public health agencies in Phase 2,” says the informational page.

The WDH has also warned that vaccine doses remain in short supply and the speed of each phase will be dependent on availability. At this time, Wyoming has received 57,150 first vaccine doses, of which 46,677 have been administered; and 28,700 second doses, of which 9154 have been administered.

As of the end of January, Crook County has administered 659 first and 18 second doses. Regardless of where you fall on the priority lists, Crook County Public Health is still welcoming citizens to sign up for the waiting list by calling 283-1142; once you have been placed on the list, you will be contacted when a dose becomes available for you.

New Variants

All three of the known variants of the COVID-19 virus have now been documented within the United States, though the overwhelming number of variant cases are associated with the one commonly referred to as the “UK variant” but scientifically known as B.1.1.7. At this time, there are 467 reported cases of this variant in 32 states, including five known cases in Wyoming.

This mutation is believed to spread more easily and quickly and early evidence has suggested that it may be associated with an increased risk of death, though more studies are needed to confirm the finding.

Only three cases have been reported so far of the “South Africa variant,” or B.1.351. Two of these have been documented in South Carolina and one in Maryland.

Just a single case of the “Brazil variant,” or P.1, has been recorded in Minnesota, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Overall, the states hardest hit by the new variants are California and Florida, with 113 and 147 of the UK variant respectively.

Both the South Africa and Brazil variant are believed to spread more easily and quickly. The Brazil variant, according to the CDC, contains a set of additional mutations that may affect the ability of antibodies to recognize it.

The Midwest mostly has ten or fewer cases per state (except Colorado, which has 11), with zero recorded cases in a number of them. Bordering states including South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Idaho are still free from confirmed variant cases, while Utah has only documented one.

Scientists are still working to understand how these new variants may affect the therapies and tests currently available, and also what effect they may have on the vaccines approved so far. This is one of the reasons medical experts still recommend social distancing and mask usage even after receiving the second dose of your vaccine.

Ongoing Stats

It’s been another quiet week for Wyoming as the pandemic continues to maintain a much lighter grip over the state. On Saturday, just six confirmed cases were added to the state’s tally – the lowest daily increase since June 20.

Crook County has recorded just five new confirmed cases between Tuesday and Monday, bringing the total to 380, and no new probable cases. Crook County Memorial Hospital reported no COVID-positive patients between January 21 and 30, at which time one case was admitted.

Active cases have also dropped from 1483 last Monday to 1144 on Monday.

A total of 53 deaths were reported over the last week, bringing the overall count to 624. This included 19 long-term care residents and 47 with health conditions recognized as putting patients at higher risk of serious illness.

Hospitalizations continue to decline, standing at 53 on Tuesday. Though not yet back to the lows of 20 and below that Wyoming experienced in the early days of the pandemic, this is a significant drop from the November 30 peak of 247.

Rendered 03/31/2024 09:08