COVID fears maintain grip on Wyoming
Restrictions ongoing as cases in state pass 100 mark
April 2, 2020
Life continues to be far from normal this week with restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak expected to continue until at least April 17. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world and the United States takes the baton to become the country with the most official cases, Wyoming scrambled to protect its citizens both from the virus and its effects on workers and businesses.
On Friday, Governor Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist announced the extension of three statewide orders that are designed to slow community spread of the disease and protect lives until April 17.
This means that public places including schools will remain closed, while gatherings of ten or more people in a confined space continue to be prohibited and bars, restaurants, coffee shops and some personal service businesses will remain closed except for takeout and delivery.
“Because we’ve seen cases identified in additional counties and growth in the case numbers, it’s clear how important it is for us to take sustained action. I understand the ongoing strain that these measures are having on businesses, workers and Wyoming communities,” said the governor.
“But it is imperative that our citizens respond to this public health crisis by staying home whenever possible and practicing proper social distancing when they must go out. This is how we can save lives and protect people’s health.”
The state continues to promote social distancing as the best way to limit the spread of COVID-19. It takes time for such measures to work, warned Dr. Harrist.
At time of going to press, a total of 109 cases had been reported across the state. Fremont and Laramie Counties had the largest concentration at 25 and 22 respectively, with Teton County at 20 cases and Natrona County at 12.
In northeast Wyoming, Campbell County has two positive cases. No cases have yet been reported in Crook or Weston Counties, however officials caution the virus is likely present.
Of the 109 official cases, 26 have now recovered from the illness.
To date, a total of 1563 tests have been completed at the Wyo4ming Public Health Laboratory and commercial labs have reported 544 tests. The Wyoming Department of Health notes that commercial labs are only required to report positive results; negative results are not reported consistently.
Crook County Public Health has increased its emergency operations center to a level four out of five according to its Pandemic Influenza Plan. This reflects the widespread transmission of the disease in states excluding Wyoming and limited transmission within the state.
The impact of restrictions or outright closures is now being felt by many businesses locally and across the state. The federal C.A.R.E.S. act is expected to place an estimated $1.25 billion of relief funds in the state’s hands within the next 45 days to help pay expenses related to COVID-19.
Governor Gordon announced that grants of up to $5000 would be available to businesses with the goal of averting or shorting layoffs during the process. By the weekend, the application limit had been reached and the governor stated more funds would be sought for the program.
Meanwhile, the office of Wyoming’s First Lady, Jennie Gordon, launched an online resource for families struggling with food access. She joins representatives from across the state in the Wyoming Hunger Initiative, which has launched a COVID-19 taskforce to tackle the issues caused by statewide closures.
“The sudden additional demand on food pantries statewide requires creative solutions, as will protecting the health of our Wyoming neighbors and friends at highest risk for contracting COVID-19,” First Lady Jennie Gordon said. “The task force focuses primarily on ensuring no child or senior goes hungry.”
The Wyoming Hunger Initiative website now lists resources in each county for those in need.
Changes to normal life continued this week with further closures. Devils Tower National Monument announced it will be closed to all park visitors until further notice with no access permitted.
The Black Hills National Forest began closing its developed recreation sites last week, including campgrounds, rental cabins, picnic areas, fire lookouts and observation points. The closure will remain in effect until April 30.
Wyoming State Parks also announced Monday that historic sites including museums, historic structures and visitor centers are temporarily closed. State Parks are open, but their associated buildings, including overnight camping facilities, will now be closed.
Businesses across the county continue to follow the state restrictions, with many offering reduced service or hours. The Sundance Chamber of Commerce is still collecting donations to purchase gift cards from local businesses to donate back to local medical and essential personnel as well as individuals currently out of work, which can be done through paypal.me/sundancechamber or by dropping off funds at the Sundance State Bank drive-through marked “Chamber Gift Card Donation”.
Sundance City Hall and the Crook County Courthouse remain closed to public access, though all offices within are available via phone or email. The Crook County Commissioners have called a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the status of the courthouse and county building closures and propose a resolution for a budget amendment for funding for COVID-19.