While COVID-19 vaccination is now underway, we are nowhere near herd immunity. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, we have only fully vaccinated less than 113,000 of 581,000 residents. (This puts our state a bit behind the middle of the pack, percentage-wise.) The B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants of the SARS-COV-2 virus, which are more contagious and resistant to the vaccine, are spreading, and P.1, the most worrisome, is infecting even people who previously recovered.
Yet, many Wyomingites have taken Governor Mark Gordon's politically motivated, premature repeal of precautions as a signal that the pandemic is over and are unmasking in public places, such as "big box" stores. This has bent the infection curve upward; Wyoming is seeing a resurgence of infections and hospitalizations - and, embarrassingly, our rate of vaccine hesitancy is highest in the nation. Easter Sunday, alas, may turn out to have been a "superspreader" event, as residents packed into churches which were starved of revenue during the Christmas season and hence motivated to gather crowds.
Here in Albany County, we have a lower rate of vaccine hesitancy than other Wyoming counties but also a large population of college students, many of whom will travel for the holiday and be exposed to the virus. And, as in the rest of the country, no children under 16 have yet been immunized. No one knows who -- young or old, robust or frail -- might succumb to the virus, which has infected approximately 1 in 10 Wyoming residents and, of those, killed more than 1 in 80.
All county governments should follow the lead of Teton County and reimpose countywide safeguards until at least 50% of the county population have been immunized. But even if they fail to do so, it's our civic and moral responsibility to get our shots as soon as possible, mask up, and maintain distancing until these milestones are reached. All businesses and gathering places should continue to enforce safeguards until we're out of the woods -- which, we can hope, will occur by the Fourth of July and give us an additional reason to celebrate.
BRET GLASS, Laramie