By Bill Sniffin, publisher of the Cowboy State Daily
So, is Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon ready to gently lift restrictions on everyday life here in the Cowboy State?
He has been saying we will be in our current shutdown status until April 30, but perhaps there is some wiggle room here. Gordon says data will drive his ultimate plans. He will need good data and good advice from a myriad of people working on his committees studying all aspects of the state’s economy.
Data is based on statistics. And therein often lies the problem.
Legendary American Humorist Mark Twain is credited with pointing out that there are three kinds of lies:
2. Damned lies.
I always loved that line because it would come into play so often during major discussions of local, state, and national policies. Sure, there are statistics, but which ones can you believe? Don’t you naturally believe the ones that favor your side?
On local, state, national, and international fronts, we are facing two of the biggest crises in our history. One is a health crisis (pandemic) and the second is an economic crisis, caused by governments reacting to the first crisis.
The two are totally related but sometimes it is hard to feel that way.
For example, a person infected with the COVID-19 might be fighting for his or her life and could care less about whether the economy opens up or not. That person probably believes it should not. In this group also fall those senior citizens or people with underlying health issues who literally are fearing for their lives.
Then there are the working folks and the owners of small businesses who fear a different kind of demise – economic death. They risk losing their lifetime investments or their seniority or whatever prosperity they were enjoying just six weeks ago. And these folks are not sick and do not know anyone who is sick. They feel like victims of a drive-by shooting. The emotions these folks are feeling are serious.
Today, I am seeing three sets of statistics that seem to be affecting our lives here in Wyoming.
The first is a medical question: how many people got sick from COVID-19? Wyoming has done many things well but a huge deficiency is the lack of testing. It is a shame that so few people in Wyoming have been tested by now. How can you get a real picture of the extent of COVID-19 infestation without more tests?
The second is an economic question: with the state entering possibly its worst depression ever from a state government perspective, where does Gov. Gordon and the legislature cut to balance the budget? I would predict there is a group of hard-nosed legislators lining up to cut the money allocated for education. This is a fight that could go to the state Supreme Court for a third time.
The third is how to restore our economy. Six weeks ago, our hospitality industry was booming. Can it bounce back? Will there be a pent-up demand to come see our wonderful state? I would think people across America would favor going to wide open spaces rather than Disney theme parks or Las Vegas casinos.
Oil rigs were working and oil was flowing in Wyoming this year until the Russians and Saudis destroyed that market with their recent price war. Now those countries have agreed to cut back dramatically, which will raise oil prices. This will be good for Wyoming.
One of my biggest fears are the local-owned stores up and down our Main Streets across Wyoming. Right now, these businesses are running on fumes. A few actually made money on the federal CARES act but a lot of them might just have to call it quits. This is such a tragedy.
Gov. Gordon concludes: “We have got to get this right,” he said. “We are living in a time where the new reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. Until we have a vaccine or a treatment, things are going to be different.”
We wish Godspeed to the governor and his committees when it comes to how to solve all this. It seems like he might open the economy but request that folks more prone to catch the illness still maintain their shelter-in-place recommendations.
In the end, we are all soldiers in this world-wide battle against one of the world’s greatest plagues. Few people alive have experienced what we are going through.
Please follow the rules. Be careful. Reach out in a safe way to stranded or lonely people. We will emerge from this as a possibly much different people than we were before this all started.
We are a resilient people and we will be stronger in the end.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.