CASPER (AP) — A surge in local cases of the coronavirus blamed on people not following social distancing recommendations or wearing face masks in public has prompted the cancellation of a Memorial Day car show in Wyoming.
Yellowstone Garage in Casper previously received verbal approval for a variance to the state health order banning gatherings of more than 25 people. By Monday, however, the situation had begun to change, with new cases reported over the weekend.
By Wednesday, 15 new local infections were confirmed in Natrona County in the past week — after three weeks without any new cases in the area.
The new cases led State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist to oppose the variance, Casper-Natrona County Health Department spokesperson Hailey Bloom told the Casper Star-Tribune. The outdoor car show could have drawn thousands of people.
"This is not an appropriate time to have a large event," Bloom said, citing comments by Harrist.
People not social distancing or wearing face masks in public probably led to the jump in local cases, Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell said Tuesday.
"It makes you really have to think it through. We want people to be able to do things but we have got to do it safely," Dowell said.
The new cases caught the attention of Gov. Mark Gordon, who made a point of wearing a face mask to a news conference Wednesday in Cheyenne.
"That's one reason why I'm wearing this," Gordon said. "It's important that we try to keep this pandemic at bay. It's important for all of us to make a concerted effort."
Wyoming since Friday has been easing up on public health measures to limit spread of the virus, allowing people to gather in larger numbers and go to restaurants and bars where servers wear masks.
Health officials haven't set a new-case number for Natrona County or elsewhere that would prompt a return to tougher restrictions, Harrist said at the news conference.
Such a decision would need to be made in the context of other information, such as whether hospitals could handle the worst cases, she said.
"It really is the whole picture," Harrist said.
Wyoming has had at least 787 confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus, officials said. Of those, 534 have recovered and 11 died.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.