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

Hot Springs County Is Dealing With A COVID-19 Surge

Empty school desks in rows
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The Hot Springs County School District raised some eyebrows when they canceled activities like football and pushed classes to online offerings this week to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases. The cases have impacted the entire town. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck spoke with Hot Springs County Health Officer Vernon Miller and he explained the situation.

Dr. Vernon Miller: You know, we are a tourist destination to lots of folks from out of town. There have also been several somewhat larger gatherings lately, but we have not been able to get much data out of our contact tracing to be able to nail that down. But I think that it is just a part of everything that's happening in Wyoming at this point. And our's is just a small county with a small population. And those numbers just zoomed because people got together when they shouldn't have.

Bob Beck: Can you describe what you're seeing out there? Is it spreading a lot? Is it focused on a specific group of people?

VM: The schools closed based on the fact that they reached a threshold of staff and students that were in quarantine or sick. And they just decided to close for 10 days and do a terminal clean and hope that we're able to get past this. Our hospital like most hospitals in Wyoming is full, you know, our resources are stretched pretty thin. I think I'm seeing an uptick in people coming in for immunizations because as they see more of their friends and loved ones get sick, it's become more real to them. It's not just something that you read about in the news or watch on TV. I think that it's just sort of a natural consequence of having a Delta variant that is much more contagious. And people continuing to have some gatherings that allow it to spread more rapidly. It is probably more virulent as well. You know, when I talked to my counterparts in other parts of the state, we may be a little higher this week, but they may be higher next week. I think it's going to be statewide.

We were looking forward to getting the vaccines. Now that we have them, if people choose not to use a vaccine, then they need to go back to those things like masking and social distancing and hand hygiene until we get past us to a better place. We can't just do none of the above. That isn't going to work.
Hot Springs County Health Officer Vernon Miller

BB: I was going to ask you about vaccinations. Is it a pretty steady stream that you're seeing now?

VM: It's just a much steadier trickle, I wouldn't describe it as a stream yet. Our immunization rate is fairly good or certainly better in our seniors, it's at least in the low 60 percent range. In our adolescence, it's around 12 percent. Those who are eligible by age and regular adults, it's still less than 50 percent. Overall, it's only about 37 percent, there's still a great deal of vaccine hesitancy here for a variety of reasons. Many people have lots of different reasons for it. And what I try to stress is that there is no vaccine for anything that's 100 percent safe. This one certainly has been out there, it's been tested and used by millions of people. And we know pretty much what the side effects can be. But we certainly know what the side effects of getting COVID can be, both short-term and long-term. And if you put it in balance, it is certainly safer to get a vaccine than to get COVID. If you've already had COVID, getting a vaccine will certainly improve your immune system a lot more than just getting the COVID itself. So we're recommending vaccines to everyone who's eligible.

BB: Anything I forgot to ask that you'd like a chance to mention?

VM: We did a lot of last year in terms of masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, and lots of things just as a stopgap, knowing they weren't 100 percent effective by any means. But they were all we had until we had vaccines and we were looking forward to getting the vaccines. Now that we have them, if people choose not to use a vaccine, then they need to go back to those things like masking and social distancing and hand hygiene until we get past us to a better place. We can't just do none of the above. That isn't going to work.

BB: Dr. Miller, thank you so much for your time.

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