Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Enters Critical Phase – Next Three Weeks Will Be Decisive

Here in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon and most local officials have been pro-active. From Star Valley to Cheyenne and Evanston to Newcastle, local community leaders have been making the right moves.

Bill Sniffin

April 06, 20204 min read

Sniffin scarf

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily publisher

This American fight against the Coronavirus is at a stage, which could be typified by a famous quote by Winston Churchill during World War II:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”  We are using it in reference to our struggles against the coronavirus pandemic. Churchill used it when the USA entered the war after Pearl Harbor.

After some uncertain steps at the beginnings of this crisis, the country has come together and the Herculean effort currently underway will save lives and prevent a long-term devastating health crisis.

Here in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon and most local officials have been pro-active. From Star Valley to Cheyenne and Evanston to Newcastle, local community leaders have been making the right moves.

Here in Lander, we endured a shock last month when we found out a resident of the Showboat Retirement Center, tested positive for the Coronavirus. This was the second positive test in the state, the first being a Sheridan woman.  As I write this, we have over 200 people testing positive. In Fremont County, we have over 600 in self-quarantine because they are showing symptoms.

Early on Lander was an epicenter and the Showboat Center has been our epicenter. Nine more cases were reported positive last week from that same site.

Meanwhile, people in our town seem to be employing the social distance rules, as you see lots of folks out walking dogs. It has been a nice spring and despite a recent 10-inch snowfall, people of this outdoor-loving community cannot help themselves in wanting to go outside.

A recent highlight was Friday night car cruising in both Lander and Riverton.  The Lander one featured music by KDLY Radio folks Maralyne Middour and Joe Kenney. While hundreds of cars “cruised” Main, the families in the cars listened to music from the movie American Graffiti on the 97.5 FM dial.

In other local news, construction is being completed on a new business called Lander Labs, which will be testing for the virus shortly.

Statewide new programs of drive-by testing should save some lives.  Plus, the cancelling of thousands of Wyoming crowd events hopefully will reduce the number of people infected and the list of people killed by this deadly malady.

As I write this on Sunday afternoon, April 5, Wyoming still has not had its first death from coronavirus. Unfortunately, I predict by the time this is published, that record will no longer be in existence.

It is discouraging to me to see the number of folks who are still pooh-poohing this epidemic.  Four weeks ago, in my column, I speculated that this might be history’s greatest over-reaction. That was wrong. This is real.  I have eaten those words.  We should be applauding everyone who is taking a stand against this disease.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We need to do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our loved ones. 

Sometimes that light you see in a tunnel is that of an oncoming train.  In the case of the current coronavirus pandemic, we can only hope that some of the hopeful signs we are seeing are good.

One of the most familiar clichés in Wyoming is the concept of boom/bust economic cycles.  Well folks, times were not rosy earlier this year, but we were getting along.

In many ways, Wyoming’s state economy on Jan. 1, 2020, was the envy of the country because of a balanced budget, $20 billion in the bank, a decent oil and natural gas economy, and a roaring tourism boom.

We still have a balanced budget and our bank accounts, but oh my god, the world has changed. In a three-week period from March 12 to April 2, truly the coronavirus turned the world’s economy on its head, including Wyoming.  Out here on the frontier, folks are hurting financially. Hurting bad.

Our small business people were resilient and doing okay.  But then wham!

As the most conservative state in the country, we never believed we could ever become a nation-state like Sen. Bernie Sanders wants – but here we are. In a blink, we have all become Social Democrats.  Some 175 million Americans will be getting a check from the government in the next three weeks.

So, there you have it – we are dealing with the worst medical emergency in 100 years (not since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918) and the worst economic emergency since the great depression in 1930. 

Out here in Flyover Country, this double whammy will have long, lasting negative effects.  Please, folks, be safe and care for each other during these unbelievable times.

Share this article



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.