In a press release by the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), the fight against COVID-19 appears to be entering a new and concerning phase due to the Delta variant.

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Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, 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. 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."

Harrist said that while the Delta variant is rapidly changing Wyoming’s COVID-19 situation, the authorized vaccines continue to offer excellent protection from the virus, including against the Delta variant.

In a WDH review of over 5,000 lab-confirmed and probable cases identified among Wyoming residents age 16 and older between May 1 and July 28, around 95% of those people were not 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% were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In regards to these "breakthrough cases", Harrist said:

"No vaccine can prevent all infections and that’s why we see a small percentage of what we call ‘breakthrough’ cases. 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 Delta variant must be taken seriously because it spreads much more easily between people than the COVID-19 we’ve become familiar with...We’ve been recommending that unvaccinated people wears masks in indoor public settings. National experts now recommend the same for vaccinated residents in areas with high COVID-19 rates and we agree."

Wyoming’s county transmission indicators are slightly different than Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures and are adjusted to account for the state’s low population, with color-coded information updated weekly.

From July 14 to July 27, Natrona county is in the light green zone, with 36 cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate of 2.4%, and 21 active cases.

During the same period, Sublette county is the only county in red, with 315 cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate of 13.5%, and 15 active cases.

Because of the delta variant, the WDH recommends anyone living in yellow, orange, red, or dark red counties in Wyoming to wear masks indoors while in public.

More information from WDH about vaccinations in Wyoming can be found on the department's website.

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