By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is causing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Wyoming, changing the state’s health outlook, according to the state’s public health officer.
Dr. Alexia Harris said the Delta variant is dominant in Wyoming right now, with most new cases in the state likely linked to the variant.
“After months of relatively stable case numbers we have recently seen a sharp increase in most areas of the state,” she said. “We are deeply concerned. The Delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant.”
Just over 33% of Wyoming residents are fully vaccinated against the virus.
“The Delta variant must be taken seriously because it spreads much more easily between people than the COVID-19 we’ve become familiar with,” Harrist said. “There are also concerns from experts that as the Delta variant spreads the number of breakthrough cases will increase.”
A Wyoming Department of Health review of more than 5,000 lab-confirmed and probable coronavirus cases among Wyoming residents age 16 and older between May 1 and July 28 showed roughly 95% of the individuals did not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
During the same period, of the nearly 300 persons infected by COVID-19 who were hospitalized at the time they were interviewed by public health representatives, just under 94% did not report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“However, no vaccine can prevent all infections and that’s why we see a small percentage of what we call ‘breakthrough’ cases,” Harrist said. “The overwhelming majority of ‘breakthrough’ cases that are identified do not involve serious illness. In other words, vaccines certainly help keep you from getting COVID-19 in the first place, but if you do get it you are far less likely to get severely ill.
The department is recommending people both vaccinated and unvaccinated should wear masks in public indoor settings, especially in areas with high COVID transmission rates.
“Because the Delta variant is essentially like COVID-19 upping its game against us, we have to fight back a little harder for now,” Harrist said.
The COVID vaccines are free and available for any 12 and older.