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Wyoming is lifting its mask mandate. We answered a few questions about the change.
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Wyoming is lifting its mask mandate. We answered a few questions about the change.

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Snow falls on the statue by artist James Haire of three children outside the Natrona County Public Library in Casper on Oct. 2, 2020. The state's face mask order will be lifted Tuesday, and Natrona County officials do not plan to implement a local one.

Gov. Mark Gordon’s office this morning announced the largest change to the state’s COVID-19 response since December. Beginning March 16, residents will no longer be required to wear masks in many public settings.

Health orders on restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms will also be lifted.

The order comes four months into the state’s vaccination efforts and as COVID-19 cases in Wyoming continue to fall.

Here’s what we know so far about how these changes might affect you.

Editor's note: We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available. Have a question about the changes? Email us at editors@trib.com.

What exactly is changing?

Starting March 16, masks won’t be required in most public places, though experts still recommend them.

Additionally, bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms will be allowed to resume “normal operations,” with no pandemic-related public health restrictions.

What health orders will still be in effect?

Gordon’s office has not yet published the text of the new orders, so it’s unclear exactly what will and won’t be included. But generally, this is what’s expected:

  • Orders dealing with K-12 schools and colleges and universities will be unchanged, as will restrictions on childcare facilities.
  • Restrictions on indoor and outdoors public gatherings are expected to remain, which allow for indoor gatherings of up to 1,000 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 2,000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's abrupt decision to get rid of the state's mask mandate is causing confusion and tension in his state.Customers at one Mexican restaurant berated the staff and threatened to call immigration officials because employees were wearing masks. The owner says it's something the restaurant has seen through the entire pandemic. A number of businesses in the state have decided to keep mask rules in place, despite the governor's ruling.

Will children still have to wear masks at school?

Masks are still required on K-12 campuses.

Will I need a mask at the University of Wyoming or other higher education campuses?

Yes. The existing health orders require face masks in most public settings on college and university campuses in the same clause of the health order that deals with K-12 schools.

Additionally, spokesman Chad Baldwin said the university has no plans to relax its mask requirement.

Where else will I still need to wear a mask?

As before the statewide mask order was enacted, local jurisdictions can impose their own orders. It's yet unclear if any will.

Masks are required on federal property and at businesses that choose to require them.

Fully Vaccinated People Can Safely Gather With Non-Vaccinated People. On Monday, the CDC released guidance on safe activities for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. . A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final shot, as the body has had enough time to build up antibodies. . Fully vaccinated people can safely congregate indoors with other fully vaccinated people without safety measures, such as physical distancing or mask-wearing. . They can also have small gatherings with other households, even if that group contains non-vaccinated people. . This is very welcome guidance … This opens the door for grandparents to meet with their children and grandchildren without masks, indoors, for a nice group hug, Dr. Richard Besser, via NBC News. The caveat is that the non-vaccinated people should not be at risk of severe COVID-19, as there may still be a risk of transmission. . COVID-19 mitigation measures should also still remain status quo in public places. . This includes frequent hand washing, wearing masks and avoiding crowded areas. . We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 … We’re still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease, CDC, via statement

What businesses and establishments does the change affect?

  • Restaurants;
  • Bars;
  • Theaters;
  • Gyms; and
  • Any place that previously required a face mask, which was most public settings.

Will restaurants and theaters have to follow any health orders?

The state has not published the text of the new orders, but based on the governor’s announcement, no public health orders will be in place regulating restaurants, theaters, bars or gyms starting March 16. Such entities will still need to abide by health and safety laws.

Private businesses are able to enact their own rules and restrictions.

How is Wyoming handling the pandemic?

Officials are generally optimistic about the state’s direction in limiting the amount of COVID-19 here. Twenty-two people were hospitalized for the virus statewide Sunday, down from the peak of nearly 250, according to Wyoming Department of Health data. There were just over 500 active total infections Friday across Wyoming, down from the nearly 12,000 active cases in late November.

How many people in Wyoming have been vaccinated?

More than 100,000 Wyomingites have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 60,000 people have been fully inoculated against the novel coronavirus in the state.

Officials don’t know exactly when supply will pick up in the state, but President Joe Biden has said there will be enough vaccines in the U.S. to vaccinate any resident who wants a shot by this summer.

Most counties are still in phase 1b of vaccination, which includes residents 65 and older, residents with certain health conditions and employees in a number of front-line industries. 

PHOTOS: Crowd protests COVID-19 health orders at Wyoming Capitol

Follow health and education reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @m0rgan_hughes

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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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