Wyoming’s COVID-19 case count hit an ominous milestone Tuesday, eclipsing 1,000 active infections for the first time since February.
A burgeoning vaccination campaign had been reducing the impact of the pandemic across the state, but the delta variant has fueled a resurgence in Wyoming and the rest of the country. A database maintained by The New York Times shows a fourfold increase in cases in the United States over the past month.
The state has seen 25 new cases a day for each 100,000 people over the past two weeks, a 78% jump over the previous fortnight. That rate is just below the U.S., which saw 26 new daily cases per 100,000 people over the same period.
Wyoming Department of Health data showed 44 active cases in Teton County on Tuesday. The rate of new local cases has jumped 83% in the past two weeks.
Guidance is shifting quickly about the coronavirus given the increase in cases. Federal officials have kept a mask mandate in place for transportation, including planes and buses, and this week they reinstated a requirement for face coverings in federal buildings.
County health officials have not yet issued any new orders or mandates. They are, however, recommending that people wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.
That tracks with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also says that people in areas of “substantial or high transmission” should wear masks indoors. Substantial transmission means between 50 and 99 total new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, and high is more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people.
The CDC rates Teton County, which had a rate of 140 new cases per 100,000 over the past week, as having high transmission. Part of the motivation behind the changing guidance is the potential for vaccinated people to still transmit COVID-19 because of increased viral loads with the delta variant.
One promising factor for health officials is an increase in the vaccination rate. An analysis by ABC News found that all 50 states are seeing an increase in the rate of people coming in for their first shots, up 73% in the past three weeks. Sunday was the fifth consecutive day that at least 700,000 vaccine doses were administered nationwide.
That trend is potentially happening in the county as well. Teton County Health Department vaccine program coordinator Stuart Agnew said nurses have noticed busier days in the clinic at the department, with an uptick starting two weeks ago, though shots administered at the mobile clinics are more sporadic.
“Each day is busier,” she said, with people citing the delta variant as motivation for getting the shots.
Teton County’s vaccination rate is now at 70.63% of the entire population, according to state Health Department data. Albany County has the second-highest rate, with 44.51% of its population vaccinated.
Agnew hopes that the recent upturn will continue, but she’s waiting at least another week to call it a trend.
“I think we’re kind of curious,” she said, “about what’s going to happen this week.”