Green River Star -

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By David Martin

COVID-19 variants found in county

Health officer urges vaccines, masks and distance


“It was just a matter of time,” Dr. Jean Stachon, the county’s health officer said about when variants of the novel coronavirus would appear in Sweetwater County. Currently, 12 of Wyoming’s 23 counties have variants circulating within their boundaries.

Two variants, originally discovered in California, have appeared amongst the COVID-19 infections recorded in Sweetwater County. They have been circulating for a while too. Dr. Stachon said one of the variants was first detected in a sample from late February, raising the possibility that the variant was in Sweetwater County before that sample was collected. Dr. Stachon said the issue came from the tests being conducted by Curative, a private company running COVID-19 tests, only working to detect if the virus was present in the sample, not testing if the virus detected had different genetic markers than the original virus -- something the state health department’s testing includes.

Dr. Stachon said the variation is not considered of “high consequence,” meaning there isn’t concern that the vaccines available are not effective against the strain. So far, she said information collected about the two variations indicate it is about 20% more transmissible than the original virus, with data about how lethal it is compared to the original not available.

Additionally, transmission within the county remains higher than much of the state, with Sweetwater County joining Teton, Fremont and Lincoln Counties in the “moderate-high” transmission level, meaning there are between 101-201 cases per 100,000 population and a 8-10% test positivity rate. Between March 18-31, 234 cases were reported within the county, enough to put the county in the higher red zone, but the test positivity rate was 5.7%, which was the reason the county moved to the moderate-high range. With those statistics in mind, as well as the fact more transmissible variations of the COVID-19 virus are in the county, Dr. Station still urges residents to continue to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and maintain social distancing while in public.

“It’s still a good practice,” she said.

She also encourages residents to get vaccinated, saying the best vaccination is the one they receive. However, people wanting a specific vaccine are in a position to receive it.

Kim Lionberger, the director of Sweetwater County District Board of Health, said many of the vaccination efforts are moving towards providing second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. She said they plan to host a second-dose clinic April 13, also saying they have a large supply of the single-done Johnson and Johnson available.

Kim White, the director of emergency services at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, said the hospital is preparing for a major vaccination clinic Friday and Saturday, taking place from 2-7 p.m., with no appointment needed. The hospital will provide the first done of the Moderna vaccine, free of charge.

White said Castle Rock Hospital District has stopped providing first doses of the vaccines and is sending people to Sweetwater Memorial for coronavirus testing.


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