Sublette County Health Officer Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons has asked for state approval to institute a face mask mandate in Sublette County.
In a letter posted on the Sublette Covid-19 Response Group site on Thursday, Fitzsimmons acknowledged that his decision may not be a popular one with everyone in the rural county, but he could not “ignore the gravity of the situation” that citizens of the county face with the virus.
“Sublette County lacks medical equipment and resources to treat serious cases of Covid-19 and options to transport seriously ill patients are greatly diminishing as regional hospitals are nearing or exceeding their capacity to accept patients suffering from Covid-19,” Fitzsimmons wrote.
The mere request to wear masks was not producing results, he said.
“Therefore additional mandates are necessary to protect the health and safety of Sublette County residents,” he wrote.
The mandate would require the use of face masks for indoor spaces in Sublette County, as well as a prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
“I have listened to and carefully weighed the arguments against mandatory mask orders,” he wrote. “But, on balance, the public health benefits in reducing the spread of this virus by wearing face masks and limiting the size of gatherings heavily outweigh other considerations.”
In contrasting the use of masks in schools, where it is mandated, against the rest of the county, Fitzsimmons noted there have been no “major outbreaks” in the schools because of the mask-wearing.
“The danger lies with the rest of the community where mask-wearing is not widespread,” he said.
Fitzsimmons warned residents that hospitals in Utah — where ill Sublette County residents are generally taken — may not be available because of the coronavirus surge in the area.
“The University of Utah medical center . . . has declared that they will likely be required to ration medical services under ‘crisis standards of care’ protocol, resulting in medical care being provided to only those patients most likely to survive, leaving many elderly patients to die from COVID-19,” he said.
Sublette County is the only county in Wyoming which does not have a hospital and has no ability to provide inpatient care for its citizens.