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Gordon says coronavirus impact likely to go on for a while


March 19, 2020

The impact of the coronavirus on Wyoming will probably be felt for some time to come, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.

Gordon spoke during a press briefing as the number of coronavirus cases in the state grew to 28 with one new case each in Carbon and Laramie counties.

“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” he said. “This is going to impact life in Wyoming for a long time to come.”

However, even as the state announced two more cases, officials in Fremont County announced that two of the patients in that county have fully recovered and have been released from isolation.

The state in the past week has issued orders closing businesses where 10 people or more are likely to gather and prohibiting social gatherings of more than 10 people.

Gordon said if people abide by the orders, it will help slow the spread of the illness and perhaps prevent the need for a “shelter in place” order such as those seen in other states, where residents have been ordered not to leave their homes.

“At this point, we do not believe a shelter in place order is necessary,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to find a balance that respects private property rights, personal liberties and prudent health standards. We can hopefully look to Wyoming being a bellwether state that leads the nation in not having to proceed with shelter in place. But that can only come with citizens stepping up and doing their part with social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and doing their best to meet these orders.”

The state entered the weekend with 22 cases, but testing revealed new cases in Carbon, Fremont and Laramie counties by Sunday evening. By Monday afternoon, another new case had been diagnosed in both Laramie and Carbon counties.

As of Monday afternoon, Fremont County continued to be the county with the highest number of cases, 10, followed by Laramie County with seven.

Sheridan County had four cases, two were diagnosed in Teton and Carbon counties and the Health Department reported there was one case each in Campbell, Natrona and Park counties.

In the face of growing case numbers, Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, on Friday banned gatherings of 10 or more people.

Gov. Mark Gordon, in a statement expressing his support for the new order, said it has been proven that limiting social contact helps reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“I very much appreciate the willingness of our state’s residents to comply with this action,” he said in a news release. “Particularly because it is now becoming clear that young adults 18 to 50 are also at risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19.”

“People of any age can spread this disease to others who are especially vulnerable to more serious or life-threatening illness,” Harrist said in the news release. “We’ve recommended limits on gatherings, this order is an official step to put those recommendations in to action. Slowing and limiting the spread of the disease is our goal.”

In other developments:

Statewide testing: The U.S. Department of Education waived the requirement for Wyoming public school students to take statewide assessment tests, Superintendent of Pubic Instruction Jillian Balow announced.

Balow said the U.S. Department of Education on Friday granted a request from Wyoming for a waive from certain federal assessment and accountability requirements in the face of the coronavirus spread.

“By removing this testing burden from schools, districts will be better able to continue to focus on their students’ immediate needs during this unprecedented time,” Balow said in a news release.

Small business loans: Gordon announced Saturday that all Wyoming businesses are now eligible to apply for up to $2 million in federal economic disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The low-interest loans are designed to provide businesses with working capital so they can survive until normal operations resume. The loan amounts depend on actual economic injury and financial needs.

Coronavirus testing: Cheyenne Regional Medical Center announced it would limit coronavirus testing because of a nationwide shortage of testing materials.

The hospital announced it would limit testing to patients requiring hospitalization because of their symptoms, patients with chronic medical conditions, people with compromised immune systems who show symptoms of COVID-19 and anyone having close contact with a coronavirus patient or a history of travel from a high-risk area.

Meanwhile, the state Public Health Laboratory reported it had processed 432 tests from the state as of Sunday evening and commercial private labs had tested 51 Wyoming residents.

Unemployment: The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported being deluged with calls from people seeking information about available assistance as a state order closed theaters, bars, museums, gyms and other businesses likely to draw more than 10 people.

Graduation: Central Wyoming College announced it had canceled graduation ceremonies scheduled for May 8.

“While commencement is the highlight of our academic year, the health and well-being of our students, communities and their families is our top priority,” said Cory Daly, the college’s vice president for student affairs.

Social media assistance: In Campbell County, people wanting to trade some of their household items for supplies they need are using The Cupboard of Campbell County Facebook page to make connections.

The group is described by organizer Tammy McArthur as “an online version of borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbor.”

The Facebook page is similar to social media sites active around the state where people can ask for or offer supplies.

Mall closed: Cheyenne’s Frontier Mall was ordered closed by Cheyenne’s police Saturday to eliminate the social gathering of children. While police said the mall would be closed for 48 hours, the mall’s website said the facility would be closed until further notice.

Malls in Casper and Rock Springs remained open, but limited their hours to noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays at the White Mountain Mall in Rock Springs and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Eastridge Mall in Casper.


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