Bill Sniffin: We Are In A Medical And Economic Twilight Zone

I have to wonder how you keep going when almost all international tourism has been canceled? This is just one example of literally thousands of similar situations around Wyoming in the hospitality industry.

Bill Sniffin

March 19, 20204 min read

Bill Sniffin
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily publisher

Worried? Heartsick? Scared to death?

How do you go from prosperity to the poorhouse in one week?

How do you go from assumed great health to a targeted walking petri dish in one week?

The above describes my feelings about a real-life modern version of the Ides of March. Nobody alive today will ever forget March of 2020. These are not the Roarin’ 20s. They might end up being the Whimperin’ 20s.

The worldwide menace of the Coronavirus COVID-19 has done something that we have not seen since World War II. It has united the world against a common foe. But this foe is sneaky and snarky. It creeps up on the unprepared and the unhealthy.

Americans like to get things over in a hurry.  World War II took a little over four years once the USA put its total effort into solving it.

Most of my friends have been involved in small business.  I have never seen them so worried.  I spent my life in small business and I still remember the sleepless nights when things just were not going well. When you were scrambling just to make payroll and make the bank payments. But at least I had a fighting chance back then.

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Luckily, Wyoming has the highest percentage of people in the country who working for some sort of government, about 12 percent. This is good. Those paychecks are safe.  Another big group work for non-profits, which can be secure.

But those folks in the private sector, wow, they are really in for it. For much of my 50 years of doing business in Wyoming, I worked in the hospitality industry. Most of my clients were hotels, restaurants, attractions, resorts, tourism promotion groups, and just about everything else to do with hospitality.

These folks have taken it right on the chin. How could you plan in advance for something like this? Most of them were gearing up, not prepping for shutting down.

One of the companies I helped found in 1990 was and international tourism marketing company for the Rocky Mountain region.  I sold out my interest in the company in 1996. The company thrived up to now. It was going to celebrate its 30th anniversary in April.  That event has been cancelled. I have to wonder how you keep going when almost all international tourism has been cancelled? This is just one example of literally thousands of similar situations around Wyoming in the hospitality industry.

To their credit, members of Congress are passing bills authorizing almost $1 trillion to aid everybody. Good work.  A band aid, but good work.

Some medical authorities reported today that there may be more than one wave of this disease. If we do too good a job of protecting our population from it, it could re-appear in four months and on and on through additional cycles, until a vaccine is produced. The idea being that folks become immune to it if they catch it and survive.  I am not very excited about this logic.

President Trump appears confident a vaccine will be ready soon. Let’s hope so.

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Meanwhile, most of the people of my generation are hunkered down in their homes. They are binge-watching TV shows. They are cleaning up parts of their homes they barely remembered having. 

I have been a member of the Lander Rotary Club for 50 years. It is a very social club with 90 members. I enjoy it and miss it right now. Today, we tried a “virtual” meeting with a computer application called Zoom and it was amazingly pleasant.  I wished I had bought some stock in Zoom!

And so, we all try to keep busy. In my case, I am the publisher of Cowboy State Daily, a digital news site at, and we are working 24/7 to keep folks informed about the Coronavirus and everything else about Wyoming, too.

Wyoming is normally so danged busy this time of year as we endure mud season, gear up for the huge tourism seasons, and bask in the occasional nice weather (between spring storms) as we look at winter in our rear-view mirror. 

But damn, this year, the quiet is deafening.

(An earlier version of this column was a draft)

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.