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Laramie County health officials hope to enact mask mandate for residents
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Laramie County health officials hope to enact mask mandate for residents

Hand Sewn Medical Mask

Loretta Miller of Mountain View Baptist Church in Mills holds up a hand-sewn mask on March 25 in Mills. 

Laramie County’s health officials are hoping to enact a county-wide mask mandate amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Wyoming.

The Laramie County Board of Health unanimously passed a motion Tuesday asking the county health officer, Dr. Stan Hartman, to issue a public health order requiring the use of masks in the county.

Board president Tim Thorson told the Star-Tribune the decision came in response to increased cases in Laramie County, and the pressure the surge has put on public health resources. Thorson specifically named the increased difficulty of contact tracing as a reason the board chose to encourage a mask mandate. He said it was important to begin the process of enacting the requirement now, before local health systems became overwhelmed.

Hartman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Thorson said the health officer accepted the board’s request and is now working with the state health department to enact a mandate for the county.

The order would be the second county-wide face mask order enacted in the state, with Teton County’s order being the first. That order was put in place in July.

The board action comes as COVID-19 cases in Laramie County, and statewide, continue to surge. Wyoming’s most populous county and home to the state capital, Laramie County has recorded 1,227 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began—the most of any Wyoming county, health department figures show. As of Tuesday, there were 381 active COVID-19 cases in Laramie County.

Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr tweeted her support for the measure Tuesday following the meeting, writing “Any mask mandate decision will be data-driven by county/state health officials...”

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“I fully support a mask mandate, as our number of positive cases are surging. We have 2 options in my opinion: Mask Up, or Shut Down. Let’s not revert back to April. Our economy can’t sustain it.”

Gov. Mark Gordon has said he is not considering a statewide face mask requirement, but he has urged the state’s residents to wear face coverings. He has repeatedly stressed the need for personal responsibility to protect both Wyoming’s wellness and its economy.

Wyoming has recorded new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations eight times this month and more than doubled the number of hospitalizations: from 32 on Oct. 2 to 68 on Oct. 19.

October also marked the first time the state’s 10-day average of new confirmed cases exceeded 100 cases a day. In the first week of the month, the state was averaging about 105 cases. That average is now above 162 new cases daily.

In early September, cases began surging at a rate that dwarfed the previous spikes of late July and late August. While those two spikes never resulted in an average of even 50 confirmed cases per day, several days in late September saw more than 100 new confirmed cases added.September also proved the most fatal month for COVID-19 infections in the state, with 13 patients dying from the virus during the month.

State health officials had hoped to eliminate almost all coronavirus restrictions during the summer, but case increases prevented them from following through on that plan, Gordon said. While less restrictive than the initial health orders put in place in March, most of the amended health orders have been continually renewed, with a few exceptions.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever and shortness of breath. Symptoms appear within two weeks. Health officials recommend self-isolating for two weeks if you have contact with a person who has the illness.

Photos: Wyoming Public Health Laboratory

Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites

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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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