Groups impress value of vaccinating employees

CHEYENNE — As COVID-19 case numbers rise in Laramie County and across the state, bolstered by a variant that made up more than half of cases last week, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department is offering to send staff to local businesses to vaccinate employees. 

Five businesses in town have so far taken advantage of the service, said Valencia Bautista, City-County Health’s immunizations and family planning nurse manager. About two dozen people were vaccinated during these visits, she said. 

Some of these businesses reached out to the health department directly, while others were contacted by Roy Kroeger, the department’s director of environmental health. 

Kroeger said the idea was sparked by an outbreak at a local chain restaurant. At the time, just two of the restaurant’s employees had been vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“I mentioned to the manager that we would be willing to come out and do a vaccine clinic on site so that additional people can get vaccinated, and they can send families or whatever at the same time, and we can get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Kroeger said. 

The manager then asked if the health department was willing to do these clinics at other businesses, too. 

“The department’s willing to give those vaccines at any of the businesses that can make it worth our while going out there,” Kroeger said. 

The environmental health director said people vaccinated during these clinics expressed it was helpful for them to be met where they are, instead of having to carve out time themselves to get a vaccine. 

“I think it’s more of a convenience: ‘Well, since you came to us, sure. Why not?’” Kroeger said.

Any business interested in holding a clinic for employees can call the health department, Kroeger said. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, 38.8 percent of Laramie County’s total population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As of Monday in Wyoming, just 32.1 percent of the total population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. 

This is compared to 48.2 percent of people vaccinated across the U.S. as of Wednesday. 

The vaccination rate reported by the CDC is consistently higher than that reported by the Wyoming Department of Health because CDC data includes vaccinations administered at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities or military bases, including F.E. Warren Air Force Base. The state health department’s data also does include numbers from vaccinations given on the state’s tribal lands. 

Dale Steenbergen, president and CEO of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, said businesses encouraging their employees to get vaccinated is an important piece of keeping the community’s already limited workforce healthy. 

“We are at perhaps one of the most critical times of this pandemic. We are definitely seeing a resurgence in Cheyenne,” Steenbergen said. “Some of our health facilities are being stretched harder than we’d like for them to be, we have a lot of people missing work because of sickness, our numbers are definitely going up. So, it is a very important time to focus on this vaccination idea and make sure that your business is safe.” Several businesses have reached out already to the Chamber to let them know they also believe it’s important and that they are working to get their employees vaccinated, Steenbergen said. 

“Workforce here is tough right now, so when you are in a situation where you are a very short workforce like we are, one of the solutions to that is keep the workforce you have healthy,” he said. 

Data released by the state health department in late June showed that, of more than 2,400 lab-confirmed and probable cases identified among Wyoming residents 16 and older between May 1 and June 15, just under 95 percent reported not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Of nearly 150 persons infected by COVID-19 who were hospitalized during the same time period, more than 93 percent reported not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

As of this data release, there had been one COVID-19 related death of a fully vaccinated Wyoming resident. 

This data is consistent with numbers from across the country, Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist, said at the time. 

“I think the messaging from us is just ‘Get the vaccine, you need to be vaccinated,’” Steenbergen said. “This is how you keep your employees at work, this is how you reduce our threat to the hospital, this is how you recover if the pandemic hit you hard. So we continue to push that message, and we believe it’s important.”