CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming now ranks among the worst states for spread of the coronavirus as its residents grow weary of measures to protect themselves and state officials refrain from reimposing public-health orders to try to force compliance.
Wyoming ranks among the top five states for new coronavirus infections per capita over the past week of surging cases nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Almost 3,300 people in the state had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday and not yet recovered, up from about 500 in July, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
People hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state this week topped 100, more than double the number just two weeks ago.
The state's death toll increased by seven in the past week to reach 77. The recent deaths announced Monday by the state health department included five residents of New Horizons Care Center, a long-term care facility in Lovell.
Three residents of Life Care Center of Cheyenne have died in recent weeks. The skilled nursing and long-term care facility has 38 active cases among residents, including seven who are hospitalized, facility officials said in a statement Monday.
Wyoming officials continued to emphasize personal responsibility - wearing face masks, washing hands and keeping 6 feet away from others - rather than reimpose public health measures.
"There are just people that are tired of the situation and they want to do what they want to do. We're asking them to think about more than themselves," state health department spokeswoman Kim Deti said.
Relatively few cases have spread among children and staff at schools in Wyoming, showing that masks, which are required in public schools, help prevent spread of the virus, Deti said.
The rates of positive test results, hospitalizations and deaths, meanwhile, show a surge in Wyoming cases and aren't the result of more testing, Deti added.
Last spring, Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist imposed a variety of restrictions limiting the size of public gatherings and keeping people out of bars, restaurants and other indoor spaces. They rescinded most measures as the numbers improved - numbers that are now back up to their highest levels by far in every category.
Wyoming officials haven't reimposed public-health orders because they now understand the virus better and are better able to test for it, find people who've been exposed and protect workers who interact with people with COVID-19, Deti said.
"We're doing what we can to identify cases, identify exposures and hopefully slow and limit that transmission. But we need people to understand we're facing a serious situation," Deti said.
Many new cases are happening at family gatherings, Deti said.
The number of cases is thought to be far higher than reported numbers because not everyone has been tested and people can have COVID-19 without showing any symptoms.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.