CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming's governor and top public health officer spoke firmly in support of wearing face masks in public amid accelerating spread of the coronavirus and doubt among some that masks are necessary.
"We need to behave in a way that is conscientious to one another. There is no constitutional right to go infect somebody else," Gov. Mark Gordon said at a news conference Wednesday.
With a face mask hanging around his neck, Gordon blamed a "casual attitude" about mask-wearing and social-distancing for Wyoming's growing number of cases and his recent decisions to extend health orders affecting public gatherings through at least the end of July.
"We were well on our way - well on our way - to relieving all of our orders," Gordon said.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump was seen wearing a face mask in public for the first time - a possible shift in what has become a political issue nationwide and in heavily Republican Wyoming. A Natrona County school board member, Kevin Christopherson, questioned the need for face masks in school in a meeting with health officials last week.
Those who've died from the coronavirus in Wyoming "were going to die - they just died sooner," said Christopherson, a Republican running for county commission. Christopherson later apologized for the remark in an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune.
Others have made similar remarks in letters to the governor's office, Gordon said, adding that he found such an attitude offensive.
Gordon stopped short of requiring face masks in public. It remains "I suppose, on the table" but only on a community-by-community basis, Gordon said.
Seventeen people in Wyoming were reported hospitalized with the COVID-19 illness, the highest number in almost three months. About 480 people were reported to have active cases, up about threefold since early June, according to Wyoming Department of Health figures.
Twenty-two people had died. Worldwide, the number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported numbers because many people haven't been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
Statistics show that the coronavirus "isn't through with us yet," State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said at the news conference.
"Fortunately ... we all have the power by taking simple actions to change the course of this outbreak in Wyoming," Harrist said.
For most people, the 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.