By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The only way Wyoming residents will be able to avoid further restrictions on their actions will be to comply with the three orders now in place designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said the state orders closing businesses and prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people have all been issued only after careful consideration.
“We are not trying to shut down Wyoming,” he said. “But your voluntary action and discipline will make the difference on whether we can slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to emphasize the orders we put in place are only effective if you take them seriously.”
Wyoming’s coronavirus case count on Wednesday stood at 44 and the state last week issued orders closing all business where more than 10 people are likely to gather, such as bars, theaters and fitness clubs. Also last week, the state prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.
On Tuesday, Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, ordered the closure of businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors.Gordon said the best reason to limit the spread of the virus is to avoid overwhelming Wyoming’s health care providers.
“We want to make sure that should this crisis come in greater detail … that we have adequate hospital facilities,” he said. “It’s not just coronavirus that we are worried about this. If our hospitals are filled and somebody breaks a leg, you will not be able to be taken to a hospital.”
Mike Ceballos, director of the Wyoming Department of Health, echoed Gordon’s sentiments.
“We need to take this seriously,” he said. “The reason we issued these three orders is so we potentially and hopefully don’t need to take more draconian measures.”
Ceballos was one of several state officials who joined Gordon in the news conference to discuss what their agencies have been doing in response to the coronavirus. He said the state Public Health Laboratory has increased its coronavirus testing capacity by tenfold and has sent more than 2,500 sample collection kits to health care providers around the state.
Also attending the news conference was First Lady Jennie Gordon, whose Wyoming Hunger Initiative has created a task force of organizations that exist to address hunger in the state. Jennie Gordon said because of the task force’s work, the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies will be organizing mobile food pantries that will travel to different towns around Wyoming to offer assistance.
With business closures contributing to higher unemployment rates, Robin Cooley, director of the state’s Division of Workforce Services, said her agency has added 15 people to its claims processing center to keep up with the number of claims coming in.
“We are seeing more than the usual number of people seeking unemployment assistance,” she said. “Our unemployment insurance staff is keeping up with that demand. Those filing claims can expect to see benefits within two days of filing them.”
Cooley said the state is also looking into ways to keep workers on their jobs in the private sector through the use of federal dollars. She said as an example, federal money might be used to help employers buy computers to allow their workers to do their jobs from home.
The governor said the state is doing all it can to make sure Wyoming residents remain healthy and the state’s economy survives the pandemic, however, he said residents must do their part as well.
“It requires commitment from all of you to stay at home and be willing to sacrifice in the short term,” he said. “We must be honest about the enormity of this public challenge facing us and respond to it.”