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Sweetwater County Health Officer Jean Stachon spoke on herd immunity during Sweetwater County’s bimonthly COVID-19 update.

SWEETWATER COUNTY — Despite local COVID-19 case numbers going down and more vaccination doses being given, Sweetwater County still has a long way to go before reaching herd immunity. This was explained by Sweetwater County Health Officer Jean Stachon during the bimonthly update on COVID-19 for local health officials and community leaders.

Cases of the virus in Sweetwater County have begun to level out, according to Stachon. Sweetwater County’s positivity rate has dropped from roughly 18% down to 11.1%. As of Monday’s meeting, there was only one COVID-19 patient hospitalized at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, according to Dr. Brianne Crofts.

Even with this progress, COVID-19 remains a serious threat. Sweetwater County remains in the top-five Wyoming counties for transmission rates with a “high transmission” ranking, Dr. Stachon said. A less than 8% positivity rate is required to be considered “low transmission,” with a less than 5% rate being ideal.

Dr. Crofts noted that even with only one patient hospitalized, that number is liable to go up at any time. Dr. Stachon explained that a wastewater treatment survey conducted through Wyoming is predicting a coming rise in cases for several counties, including Sweetwater County. She also noted that a rise in cases after the holidays wouldn’t be surprising.

Vaccines for COVID-19 continue to be distributed throughout Sweetwater County (see the related story “Sweetwater County Public Health working on vaccine schedule” for more details). However, Dr. Stachon explained that it will still take Sweetwater County a long time for herd immunity to better protect people.

Herd immunity is reached when a population is protected from the spread of infection because much of the community is immune, either from having had the disease or being vaccinated, Stachon explained. For a good level of protection for everyone, the ideal is to have 75% of the community immune.

Even with generous estimates of numbers, Sweetwater County is currently at about 7% herd immunity, Dr. Stachon said. In another month, when more people have been vaccinated with both shots and can be considered immune, the county may be up to 12%.

“We’re nowhere near throwing away masks,” Dr. Stachon said.

Everyone is encouraged to continue practicing safety precautions related to COVID-19, including wearing face coverings, physically distancing, and washing hands, which will help contain the spread of the virus as our county works toward the goal of herd immunity.

See the related story “Sweetwater County Public Health working on vaccine schedule” on A5 for more details.

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