Graffiti mask

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Wyoming’s mask mandate and many other coronavirus restrictions will be eliminated next week, but Teton County health officials will try to put a local mask order back in effect.

Gov. Mark Gordon’s office announced Monday that as of March 16, the mask mandate would no longer be in effect. Bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms will be allowed to return to normal operations. More details of the changes to the orders will be released later this week.

“I thank the people of Wyoming for their commitment to keeping one another safe throughout this pandemic,” Gordon said in a statement. “It is through their efforts that we have kept our schools and businesses operating and our economy moving forward.”

Local health officials would like to keep some restrictions on gatherings and have a face covering order for Teton County. Because the governor’s office hasn’t released all the details, public health response coordinator Rachael Wheeler said they aren’t sure exactly what to ask for yet.

However, Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell will at least ask for a local mask mandate similar to the one in place before the state implemented its own. Due to the federal mask mandate, face coverings will still be required in federally managed buildings.

In a press release, Gordon’s office cited Wyoming’s improved COVID-19 metrics and vaccine rollout as rationale for the changes. Since the worst of the fall spike, when the state’s 7-day average of new daily cases peaked at 811 per 100,000 people, caseloads have fallen 93.5% to 53 per 100,000 people, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.

Hospitalizations have also decreased substantially, and many vulnerable populations have been vaccinated. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database, roughly one-quarter of Wyoming’s adult population has received at least the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine.

The face covering mandate for public schools will remain in place, Gordon said, because it was part of the reason the state had success keeping students in person.

“Wyoming is one of the few states in the country that kept students learning in the classroom for the entire school year,” Gordon said in his statement.

Though the orders are being rescinded, the pandemic is not yet over. Vaccination rates are not close to getting the state to herd immunity, and the decline in case rates in the United States have plateaued.

Gordon acknowledged that in his statement, telling people to remain vigilant in their viral precautions.

Even without a state mandate, he is encouraging Wyomingites to wear face coverings inside and follow other public health guidance.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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