Rising COVID-19 cases in the region are leading to new requirements and recommendations on masks.

Yellowstone National Park announced Friday its once again requiring masks indoors, a day after the state health officer recommended vaccinated residents in most counties, including Park County, wear masks in crowded indoor spaces.

In the Park announcement, a spokesperson said all five counties within Yellowstone have substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates. 

“Consistent with CDC guidance, visitors to Yellowstone, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask indoors and in all public and commercial transportation,” the announcement reads.

Park County has substantial transmission as of Friday according to the CDC. As of Friday, there were 31 active confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. 

On July 27, Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin said in a post two county residents were hospitalized for COVID-19. 

He said the rate of spread in Park County had risen significantly in the last two weeks, from 0.92 to 1.20.

State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist told the Casper Star-Tribune she was recommending vaccinated residents in areas with moderate to high COVID-19 transmission wear face masks in indoor public settings.

She has always recommended non-vaccinated residents wear masks in those situations.

As of Friday, Park County was considered to have transmission high enough to be included in her recommendation.

Just eight Wyoming counties are seeing low enough transmission for that recommendation not to apply, according to state data, including Hot Springs and Washakie counties.

The recommendation comes two days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued similar guidance that vaccinated residents in areas with low vaccine uptake should again don masks indoors as a more contagious variant of the virus spreads.

That variant, called the Delta variant, is already considered dominant in Wyoming, Harrist told the Star-Tribune.

It’s considered between 50-60% more contagious than its predecessor the Alpha variant, which was already about 50% more contagious than the original virus strain. It is also believed to be better at thwarting vaccines, though Harrist emphasized vaccinated individuals who do contract the Delta variant are far less likely to experience severe illness.

Wyoming is among the least-vaccinated states in the country, raking fourth-lowest both for those who’ve received one shot and those who are fully inoculated, at 33%.

(Casper Star-Tribune reporter Morgan Hughes contributed to this report)

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