By Morgan Hughes
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Wyoming rose to 195 on Monday — the most since Dec. 10.
The last time hospitalizations were climbing at this rate in Wyoming, vaccines were still a month away and more than a dozen counties were passing local mask orders to quell the virus’ spread.
When hospitalizations reached 195 in November, it took just two weeks for the number to climb to the state’s pandemic high of 247, which it hit on Nov. 30.
Nine days later, a statewide mask mandate approved by Gov. Mark Gordon and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist went into effect. It came after nearly every county health officer in Wyoming lobbied Gordon for such a response.
Now, 10 months later, infections in Wyoming are heading in the same direction.
Wyoming’s two largest hospitals — Wyoming Medical Center and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center — typically have just over 200 beds each.
On Monday, Cheyenne reported having 48 virus patients, according to state data. Casper’s Wyoming Medical Center was caring for 40 patients.
Six hospitals reported having zero open intensive care unit beds: Campbell County Memorial Hospital, Ivinson Memorial Hospital, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, and SageWest in Lander and Riverton.
Meanwhile, Sweetwater County hospital cancelled all elective surgeries “until further notice” in response to “an overwhelming influx of COVID-19 positive patients,” the hospital announced Monday.
“The hospital is treating and admitting more and more COVID-19 cases every day,” hospital spokeswoman Deb Sutton said in a statement. “There has been an incredible surge in cases nationwide. We are not an exception. This comes at a time when MHSC, like other U.S. hospitals, is facing a nursing shortage, as well as limited access to bed availability in regional centers for higher levels of care.”
The staffing problems weren’t limited to Sweetwater County.
Twice as many hospitals reported a critical staffing shortage to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services over the four days than did the week prior, with 10 hospitals reporting a current shortage and 11 anticipating a shortage within the coming week.
State and federal data shows the unvaccinated are driving the current surge. Between May 1 and Aug. 24, roughly 95% of hospitalized adults were not fully vaccinated.
Additionally, more than 96% of new cases were among those not fully vaccinated, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Wyoming’s vaccination rates lag behind the majority of the country but have ticked up slightly in recent weeks.
Just under 211,000 Wyomingites were fully vaccinated as of Friday.
Gordon earlier this month declared he would not implement any statewide mandates moving forward — for face masks or vaccinations. In the first week of August, he announced the state would not require masks in K-12 schools.
When asked if the state health officer or other epidemiologists were consulted for that ruling, Gordon’s spokesperson Michael Pearlman responded, “this was the Governor’s decision.”
Gordon has since said he is concerned about children under 12 years old, who have not been authorized to receive any COVID-19 vaccine.
“We know that there’s value to masks and we recommend those masks,” he told reporters during a press call Aug 16. “We also know that people have very strong concerns about masks. Some people feel a certain sense of disquiet with them.”