By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Johnson County was exempted from all statewide health orders this week, with residents joining those of Washakie County in no longer being required to wear a mask in public places, although it’s still encouraged.
The county was granted four variances Monday by state Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, responding to a request made by Johnson County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Schueler because of the dropping number of coronavirus cases over recent weeks.
As of Thursday, the county had no active coronavirus cases.
In addition to the lifting of the mask requirement, the variances allow restaurants, bars, gyms and other places where people might gather to operate without restrictions and allow more people to gather for inside and outdoor events than are allowed to gather under current statewide rules.
Other reasons for Harrist approving the variances included the fact that Johnson County Healthcare Center had an adequate supply of coronavirus tests, there were no coronavirus cases in any of the local nursing or assisted living facilities and that there was also an adequate supply of personal protective equipment in case of a spike.
Gov. Mark Gordon implemented a statewide mask mandate in December and it is in place until at least the end of the month.
While these two counties received variances this week, Niobrara has led the state in no longer requiring mask use. The county received a variance from the state in late December, although private business owners could implement their own mask rules to be followed if they wish to do so.