State prepares to open for business
April 30, 2020
One step at a time – that’s how Wyoming will get back to normal, says Governor Mark Gordon, after weeks of self-isolation and restrictions on everyday life. The pandemic is not over, he stressed during a press conference, but efforts will be made to open the state back up as quickly and safely as possible.
“All states are looking at ways to do this a little bit differently, some on dates and some on progress. We are focusing on progress,” said the governor.
The announcement comes as state health orders that closed certain businesses, instituted social distancing measures and restricted travel across the border reach their expiration on April 30.
“I realize that many people are weary of this pandemic and the toll it’s taking on people’s lives,” said state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist. However, she said, this is not over yet and it won’t be over when the health orders expire.
For that reason, Harrist stressed that Wyoming will need to make thoughtful choices to prevent things getting worse. The approach will be “a step at a time” and state officials will continually check as we go.
Changes will be made to “least risk” activities first, while other restrictions will be extended past April 30. The seven deaths seen in Wyoming over the last few weeks are a reminder why these measures have been necessary, said Gordon.
“We will not be driven by politics, we will be driven by the measures that you see here and they will be solid and they will be available,” he said.
On Tuesday, the governor announced that new public health orders will allow gyms, barber shops, hair salons and other personal care services to reopen under specific operating conditions designed to minimize public health risk from COVID-19. Restrictions will also be eased on daycares and guidance will be provided to hospitals to allow them to resume elective surgeries.
“These new orders start our process of getting this part of Wyoming’s economy up and running again,” Governor Gordon said. “We have asked Wyoming citizens to make sacrifices over the past five weeks and they have responded. I want to thank these businesses for playing such an important role in our initial battle with COVID-19. Easing the restrictions on these businesses at this time is prudent and gets us one step closer to a return to normal.”
The new orders, effective May 1, allow gyms to re-open with limited patrons, a requirement for staff to wear face coverings and the closure of locker rooms. One-on-one personal training and group classes are prohibited.
Childcare centers and home daycares can re-open by limiting groups to fewer than ten per room and implementing screening and cleaning protocols. Nail and hair salons, barber shops, cosmetology, electrology, esthetic services, massage therapy and tattoo, body art and piercing shops may also open under conditions including limited patrons, screening or patients and staff, a requirement for staff to wear face coverings and the elimination of waiting areas.
No business that has been closed due to public health orders is required to open on May 1.
Another public order continues the limitations on public gatherings to ten people or fewer until May 15. An extension to the directive that anyone coming into Wyoming must self-quarantine for 14 days was still under review at time of going to press.
Provisions have been added to all three orders that allow county health officers to submit requests for variances if public health conditions warrant a change. This is intended to provide some flexibility in recognition that the situation varies from county to county.
For several weeks, Wyoming has been unable to perform high levels of testing for COVID-19 due to a shortage of reagents with which to process the tests.
“Most people realize this has been an ongoing concern,” said Harrist, explaining that this is the reason Wyoming has not had a complete picture of its situation during the pandemic. “We know there are more cases out there than we have been able to identify.”
However, Harrist announced that the state public health lab has been working to ramp up its capabilities under pressure and is now able to increase testing outside priority groups. Healthcare providers are now being encouraged to expand testing, she said.
A new case of COVID-19 was identified in Crook County on Friday, bringing the total to five. According to Crook County Public Health, the new case was a previously identified probable case who became symptomatic.
The patient is said to have had direct contact with a previously identified positive case. “There is no community spread in the county,” said a press release from Public Health.
As of Monday, Wyoming’s death toll from the virus stood at deaths. The state had 396 confirmed cases and 140 probable cases across 21 counties, with 378 recoveries (260 from confirmed cases and 102 from probable cases).
Around the state, Fremont County had the highest number of confirmed cases at 101 with eight probable, followed by Laramie at 92 with 42 probable cases, Teton with 65 official and 31 probable and Natrona with 39 official and ten probable. Campbell County had 14 official and nine probable cases, while only Platte and Weston Counties were reporting no official or probable cases.
Contact tracing is ongoing to identify anyone who may have come in contact with the disease and become infected, said Harrist.
Wyoming will rely on a dashboard of statewide metrics to make decisions moving forward, according to the governor. The six metrics are split into two categories: those pertaining to COVID-19 cases in Wyoming and those concerning hospital capacity.
Of the six metrics, two are currently marked as “concerning”: the percentage of cases attributed to community spread and the total COVID-19 admissions reported by hospitals.
The remaining four metrics are all marked as “stabilizing”: the number of new cases, the percentage of all tests that are positive, the total hospital bed availability and the total number of intensive care unit beds available.
Health officials will evaluate these metrics before making new decisions about easing restrictions and will also take into account testing capacity, medical supplies, the current disease situation, new information and any other developments regarding the pandemic.
“Please: if you are working, don’t get careless. If you are playing, don’t get careless,” said Gordon.
“It is important that we get back to work, but we get back to work safely, thoughtfully, considerately.”