Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell gave an update Tuesday night on the COVID-19 proceedings in Natrona County. He touched on topics such as, COVID hospitalizations, deaths, the new 'UK Variant' of the virus, vaccinations, and more.

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Dowell began by stating that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down across the state, but especially in Natrona County.

"Our ICU has few, if no patients with COVID right now, due to the community masking and doing their job," he stated.

"For that," he added, "I applaud you completely."

Dr. Dowell then spoke on the news of different variants of COVID-19 that have recently become public.

Dowell stated that the virus is "mutating," or changing itself, in order to survive. He said this happens with many viruses and, in the case of coronavirus, the result is that it is becoming more transmissible. This means that it's easier to catch and it's easier to pass on to others. He emphasized that this is even more of a reason to wear masks, wash hands, and socially distance.

He did confirm that a variant of the coronavirus has been found in Wyoming, but that it's not more "aggressive" than the original virus, it's just more contagious.

"So then the next logical question is 'Does it matter in terms of the vaccine,'" he said. "At this point no. But remember, that virus is trying to survive. So it's changing and there's going to be testing done all the time to make sure the vaccine will work for these mutations. But I'm optimistic it will. At least for the foreseeable future."

Speaking of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dowell stated that they don't know at this time how many vaccines they [the health department] will be getting in the next month. He said that those who have already been given the vaccine will absolutely be able to get their second dose. Beyond that, though, he said it's unclear and that it may be possible that they run low for a while.

Dowell said that he would like the next step in the vaccination process to be opened up to those who are between 60 and 70 years old, especially those with medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, and more.

"You're the people that really need the vaccine," he said.

Dowell said that of those he's spoken to who have received the vaccine, there have been little to no side effects. He emphasized that those who are offered the vaccine should absolutely take it.

He said that he foresees mass vaccination sites in the near future, especially as the new task force in Washington begins to come together.

Dowell ended his update with words of encouragement.

"The message today is that things are looking brighter," he said. "The more all of us do right now to prevent the spread of the virus, to follow the social distancing and the masking, and get the vaccine, the better the outlook for the summer and fall."

Dowell quipped that he was a Wyoming Cowboys fan and would like to see a full season of football.

"When it comes your time to get [the vaccine], I'm calling on you to get it. Do the right thing. Get it. Save your family and friends. Make it easier for society to open up. Save our businesses. Keep everybody healthier...things are looking up. Keep up the good work."


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