Rapid increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Laramie County prompted health officials to recommend the adoption of a public health order requiring the use of face masks in public settings, the county’s public health officer said Tuesday.
Dr. Stan Hartman, speaking during a special meeting of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Board of Health, said between rising case numbers and the growing number of hospitals in surrounding states that are running out of room to treat coronavirus patients, such an order seemed logical.
“If you’re looking at surrounding states, the situation looks pretty unnerving,” he said. “What we’re worried about is if the trends continue, exhausting the resources of our hospitals.”
Hartman was directed by the board last week to draft an order for approval by the state that would require the use of face masks when in public areas where social distancing is not possible.
Hartman said he believed the order, which is modeled after one adopted by Teton County earlier this year, could be approved by the state as quickly as Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.
The order will be directed at institutions such as retail establishments, commercial businesses and other entities with facilities open to the public, Hartman said.
The order will require those entities to post notices that the use of face masks is mandatory and will require those working directly with members of the public to wear masks.
“It’s probably not as draconian as some people are imagining it will be,” he said. “Any person who casually goes around town and goes to many stores will see that a lot of this is already being done.”
Hartman criticized what he called “misinformation and disinformation” being spread about mask use and said evidence shows the use of face masks does reduce the chance of transmission of coronavirus.
He also criticized those who maintain they have a right not to wear a face mask, saying they are risking spreading the illness.
“If someone does not want to wear a face mask, they can choose not to, but I have a right not to be exposed to the viral droplets they are shedding into the air,”
So it’s not all about the person being asked to wear the mask. It’s about the people around them. By refusing consistently to even consider putting on a mask, you have to consider you are exposing the people around you to the possibility they may end up sick and in the hospital.”
Hartman said as of Tuesday morning, 21 people were being treated for coronavirus at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, the highest number seen since the pandemic began. He added six of those patients are in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“The number of patients we’ve seen in the hospital has gone up every single day for the last two weeks,” said Kathy Emmons, CEO of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department. “Since the middle of September, things started going up and they show no sign of going down at this point.”