By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Plans being developed for the gradual lifting of restrictions on Wyoming businesses are still works in progress and their progress will be thoughtful and measured, Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said the state will take its first steps next week to relax the limits placed on business operations and public movement in March as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
However, he added the plans will be adjusted as situations change.
“I’ve said before, this will not be a light switch,” he said. “We are building a plane as we are flying it. And with your help, we’ll keep it in the air. We’ll be taking very slow, incremental and thoughtful steps on how to ease these restrictions.”
Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, in March issued three health orders designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. One closed schools and businesses that could attract 10 or more people, such as bars and restaurants, one closed businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, and one restricted public gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
Those orders are to expire on April 30 and Gordon said he would issue modified versions of that would be relaxed slightly.
Gordon said those rules will likely allow some businesses, such as barbershops, cosmetologists and gyms, to reopen if they adopt practices designed to protect the safety of both customers and employees.
He added officials are still trying to determine when it will be safe to allow restaurants and bars to open.
County health officers will be allowed to ask for county-wide variances to exempt some of their businesses from the restrictions, Gordon said.
If the officers can show that the conditions inside their counties would allow the safe operation of the businesses, the requests will be approved, he added.
The state will use six metrics to determine whether it will be advisable to open businesses — the number of new coronavirus cases, the percent of coronavirus tests with a positive result, the percent of coronavirus cases believed linked to community spread, the number of hospital admissions because of coronavirus, the number of hospital beds available and the number of intensive care unit beds available.
The state will leave its modified orders in place until May 15, when officials will decide if more restrictions can be eased, Gordon said.
“The easing will go through a very thoughtful process and will be measured with positive progress,” he said. “That’s why it remains critical for citizens to continue to follow the public health guidance that has been issued.”
Gordon agreed with those who have said the state’s businesses must be allowed to open to keep the economy running.
“It is important we get back to work, but that we get back to work safely, thoughtfully, considerately and with commitment,” he said.
On other issues, Harrist said the state’s Public Health Laboratory is once again testing samples from all those believed to have coronavirus.
Because of a shortage of testing materials, the state had limited the testing of samples to those coming from hospitalized patients and health care workers.
But Harrist said the state has received more of the testing supplies, allowing it to resume testing from all patients.