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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Unvaccinated People Are Driving The Spike In Laramie County

A pharmacist prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination center in London on Friday.
Chris Jackson
A pharmacist prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination center.

The growth in COVID-19 state caseloads has put Wyoming in the top ten most cases nationally. A big reason for this is the spike of cases in Laramie County where the vaccination rate is slightly above 30 percent. County Health Officer Dr. Stan Hartman told Bob Beck what's going on.

Dr. Stan Hartman: Well, we're not entirely sure. But what we do think is that what we're seeing now, other counties are probably going to be seeing it later. This doesn't stop at county or state lines. Right now, I think we're probably seeing the spike in numbers because of our relatively high population. A lot of people are traveling through, we have two freeways going through town and we've had several large events. We've recently had some large high school graduations, etc. So we think it's a conglomeration of different things that are resulting in the current spike in numbers. There is no one single event that we can point to and no one single factor that we can point to. I think it's a combination of things. We're also seeing quite a few of the new variants, especially in the Delta variant and that spreads pretty easily. So I think it's a lot of things coming together.

Bob Beck: How many of the cases are from people who've not been vaccinated?

SH: Most of them have not been vaccinated. A few of them have, but I talked to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center last week, I asked the Chief Nursing Officer of all the patients that are admitted, 'How many are not vaccinated?' And at that point, there were 25 in the hospital with COVID and only one was vaccinated, the rest were not vaccinated. There are also some numbers I saw recently, on the national level of COVID deaths and over 99 percent of the people that are still dying from this disease are not vaccinated.

So yes, you can still get it after having had the vaccination and we knew all along that the vaccination is not 100 percent effective. It's 94 to 95 percent effective, at least the Pfizer and the Moderna. But certainly, the vast majority of people that are getting hospitalized with this and the vast majority of people that are still dying from it are not vaccinated.

BB: Is there anything you can do as a county, or as a community and maybe even any ideas for the rest of the state, that we can do to maybe finally get more people in the door? Or are they starting to trickle in?

SH: Well, we're still seeing a trickle, but we're not seeing the flood of people wanting to get vaccinated that we saw initially. And we've been scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get more people to take the vaccine. We were trying to think of maybe some incentives or something. But those have had mixed results in other states. So we're not really sure. We're basically at this point, just crossing our fingers.

BB: You have coming up, kind of a big event that happens every year, the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. How worried are you that you're going to have a whole bunch of people in here that have not been vaccinated all sitting next to each other and that could lead to a huge outbreak?

SH: Well, it's certainly a risk. I will say this, the Frontier Days leadership and Frontier Days committee really has gone out of their way to plan the safest event possible. They brought in some consultants from the University of Nebraska, they've worked with the state health department and they've brought the county health department in to come up with best practices for putting on a large event. And we think that they've really gone the extra mile, and I have to give them credit for doing everything they can to make this safe. Having said that, there is only so much you can do about human behavior. And yes, we are still concerned. But I think everything that can be done is currently being done.

BB: So you're at that point where you get out more information and just cross your fingers?

SH: Yes, we need to get the information out. We need to get people to get vaccinated. We need to get people to continue to take this seriously. People are ready to be done with the virus, but the virus is not yet ready to be done with us.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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