By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming residents will be able to camp overnight in the state’s parks by mid-May, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Wednesday.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, announced that the state would open campgrounds at its parks on May 15, but only for Wyoming residents and with new restrictions in place.
Gordon said the state has been cautious about reopening its parks for overnight camping because of the number of visitors who came from outside the state the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and stayed at the parks.
“The number of people who came to Wyoming to use our campgrounds in February was the same as it would have been any other June,” he said. “The cars and campers that were in those campgrounds came from North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and Montana. There has been a tremendous amount of out-of-state pressure on these campgrounds.”
With campgrounds still closed in other states, if out-of-state visitors came to camp in Wyoming, they could pose a threat for areas such as Platte County, where no cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed.
“We want to be mindful that the community is well prepared, that we’re doing everything we can to make sure their businesses can open safely,” he said.
Safeguards in place at campgrounds will include a reservation system, Gordon said.
Gordon also announced that the state’s public health order for out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Wyoming would be extended until at least May 8.
Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, announced on Tuesday that some of the businesses closed by state health orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus will be allowed to open on Friday.
Gyms and businesses that provide personal services such as hair salons and cosmetologists will be allowed to operate if their managers impose certain guidelines, such as requiring the use of cloth masks by both customers and staff.
Gordon said he understands the demand among some to lift all the public health orders, which also closed bars, restaurants and theaters.
“We’re moving as quickly as we possibly can,” he said. “We’re well ahead of our neighbors. Wyoming continues to be one of the states best positioned to come out of this. We are very anxious to do that.”
He also said it could be another month before the state is able to determine what the impact of the pandemic has been on the state’s economy.
“The economic impacts of COVID-19 are just beginning to express themselves,” he said. “It is going to be near the end of next month before we really understand what the depth of the economic challenge is going to be for the state.”