Bill Sniffin: Coronavirus is Grim Reaper to New Wyoming State Budget

in Column/Bill Sniffin

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily publisher

These are the times that try men’s souls is a lament from an early American patriot. And: May you live in interesting times is an ancient Chinese lament.

It is oh-so-true that we have never seen times like these coronavirus times. A worldwide panic has set in as something called the coronavirus has wreaked havoc around the world.  

And Wyoming appeared to be luckily lagging behind the rest of the world but then first reports of infected people starting popping up, first in Sheridan. 

To see the state basketball tournaments cancelled was just awful. Then you saw the March Madness cancelled on the collegiate level.  And the pro NBA started it all by cancelling its season.

I wrote a column last week speculating that this might be the world’s biggest over-reaction?  I can now eat those words.  This thing is real and we all better hunker down and prepare for the worst.

Coincidentally, the state legislature has just wrapped up its budget session.  Its members must feel like victims of a drive-by shooting.  The entire world changed. The stock market crashed, crushing the state’s ability to generate revenue from its investments.  Oil prices tanked thanks to a price war between the Russians and the Saudi’s. The whole world changed over a 72-hour period.

Even as I write this on Thursday evening, the Wyoming coronavirus story and the world story is changing rapidly.

I am just repeating some wild news here. Because this disease is so mysterious, there are more questions than answers.  It supposedly does better in a cold environment instead of heat?  How can that be? China hints there is a second strain out there. Why is Italy being hit so hard?  Rush Limbaugh says the Chinese have invested heavily in Italy and there have been tremendous back and forth traffic between the two countries, which caused the Italians to be hit so hard. Really?

In Cheyenne, Dave Simpson reports: “We were right in the middle of moving my 95-year-old mother-in-law from assisted living to a nursing home, both here in Cheyenne, when the coronavirus panic hit. We were going to move her into the nursing home this coming Monday.

“The assisted living place has limited visits to two hours in the morning and two hours in the late afternoon. The nursing home she was to have moved to is now completely locked down. No visits at all. My wife went over there this afternoon and had to talk to an administrator through a closed door, with a big sign that said STOP posted on the door. Turns out we would not have been able to visit my mother-in-law at all, for who knows how long, at the nursing home.

“My wife made the decision to bring her mother back home to our house, where she lived for six years. You’d be amazed how much help you can hire for far less than the cost of a nursing home. And, out here east of town, on five acres, what they call ‘extreme social distancing’ isn’t hard to maintain at all. It’s a way of life.

“I was at Walmart today, and they’ve been out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer for going on a week now. And I noticed that pinto beans and diced tomatoes are getting scarce as well. I guess people want to make soup in a crisis. And the store was crowded with people stocking up.

“The afternoon of 9/11 I witnessed panic when people in Illinois waited in long lines to get a tank of gas. This is pretty much like that. Panic, once again. And, let’s not even talk about the stock market.”

Steve Mossbrook of Riverton winters in California. Here is his report: “The Coachella Valley has not been hit too badly (by diseased people), but the economic effects are enormous. Many Canadians have had to return home once the WHO declared a pandemic.  Their travel medical insurance just became invalid.  The tennis and golf tournaments are postponed along with Coachella and Stagecoach, taking several million out of the local economy.”

Former Worland resident Debbie Hammons now lives in Colorado. Her report: “We just flew in from Tucson. Plane was half full. Thought we’d drop by grocery store to pick up a few things on way home. Nine at night at big store —parking lot completely full. Sold out of bananas, potatoes, bread. Frozen vegetables gone, most meat, most apples, lettuce (they have iceberg lettuce!) No broccoli.”

Wyoming can count on a minimum of 60 more days of cold weather plus some of the biggest snowstorms of the year. You would think this would keep the outbreak of this nasty bug to a limited extent.

Let’s hope so and maybe we can weather this amazing event. 

I have lived on this planet for seven decades and have truly never seen anything like this. It is unprecedented.  You can’t make this up. It sounds like a science fiction movie. And we do not know what the ending will be.  Let’s hope it is a happy one.

In the meantime, folks, practice good habits and stay healthy. 

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