Interview: Gordon Discusses Thinking Behind Not Issuing Stay-At-Home Order

Were not out of the woods, but I feel so far our efforts have been successful, Gordon told Cowboy State Daily.

Jim Angell

April 21, 20203 min read

Gordon screenshot
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Gov. Mark Gordon’s approach to restricting the movements of Wyoming residents to slow the spread of coronavirus has been based on the idea that most will follow advice intended to keep them healthy, he said Tuesday.

Gordon, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily, said he and the governors of South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska all agreed that given the chance, their residents would act in their own best interests without “stay-at-home” orders.

“(We) have all kind of taken the approach that you tell people what’s important and you ask them to do the right thing and they’ll exhibit the common sense that we know they have,” he said.

Gordon and fellow governors who have resisted adopting the more restrictive rules had been criticized by some, but Gordon noted that even Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the key advisors to the White House, endorsed the approach.

“It was nice to have a conversation with Dr. Fauci where we went through that and he said ‘You’re doing all the right things,’” he said. “And he even said it nationally.”

Wyoming was the last state to see a death attributed to coronavirus and the last state to see more than 300 cases of the illness.

“We’re not out of the woods, but I feel so far our efforts have been successful,” Gordon said.

Gordon has faced pressure not only at the national level, but from his constituents for his actions.

On Monday, he spoke with a group of protesters demanding that the state lift the restrictions it imposed in March. Meanwhile, some residents have said they would rather the state issue a “stay-at-home” order to restrict the movements of state residents and prevent the spread of the disease.

In March, Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, issued three orders to try to slow the spread of coronavirus. One closed schools and businesses where 10 people or more are likely to gather, another closed businesses providing personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, and the third prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.

The state has not ordered the closure of “non-essential” businesses or required that people remain in their homes.

Gordon said his approach embodied a balance state officials knew would have to be reached to both protect the public’s safety and allow the economy to continue operating, where possible.

 “In Wyoming’s case, we really had to find the balance because we had the virus arriving late … it hit us in a sort of unpredictable way,” he said. “So we tried to find a course that could balance that.”

The result was that rather than being shut down, most of the state’s major industries have been able to continue operations.

Gordon said he also understood the opinions of those who want to lift all the restrictions immediately rather than leave them in place until at least April 30.

“What I heard yesterday was frustration that I think almost everybody in Wyoming is feeling,” he said. “We need to get moving again. We need the country to get moving again.”

State officials are working this week on developing a process which can be used to guide how the state gradually reopens its businesses, he said. 

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Jim Angell