By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The statewide health orders that closed some businesses to prevent the spread of coronavirus will be allowed to expire in one week, creating an opportunity for the state’s restaurants and bars to operate with some safeguards, Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said he will allow the rules he put in place in mid-March that closed restaurants, bars and other businesses likely to draw more than 10 people to expire on May 15.
After that, restaurants, bars and similar businesses will be allowed to open if they follow certain safeguards to protect against a resurgence of coronavirus, he said.
“This is not a simple return to the old way of doing business before this pandemic began,” he said. “This is the way we reawaken our economy and we move forward.”
The state began relaxing its restrictions on businesses last week, first allowing businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and massage therapists, to resume business as long as they observe social distancing guidelines.
Counties have also been able to ask the state for exemptions to the public health orders and so far, 13 variance requests have been approved, most of them to allow restaurants and bars to reopen. All of the variances require similar safeguards, including limiting tables to six people, making sure all tables are six feet apart, requiring servers to wear face masks, requiring businesses to be disinfected several times a day and requiring all employees to be screened for coronavirus symptoms.
Gordon said bars and restaurants opening after May 15 will have to operate under the same guidelines.
He added, however, that the whether the rules will continue to be relaxed will depend on statewide data, such as how many new coronavirus cases are reported.
Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said information gathered from the restaurants and bars that have already resumed operation under the variances approved for the counties will help the state determine how to proceed with relaxing all of the restrictions.
Gordon said he would also be examining the public health order that limited public gatherings to fewer than 10 people, a move that would allow churches to resume services and movie theaters to reopen if social distancing guidelines are observed.
Also during the news conference, Gordon signed a proclamation calling Wyoming’s Legislature to a special session on May 15.
Gordon said plans call for the session to be conducted electronically and for proceedings to be anchored at the Capitol in Cheyenne.
The Legislature is to look at several measures, including bills that would outline how the state will spend $1.25 billion in federal assistance received as part of the coronavirus relief program approved by Congress.
Gordon said the public could watch legislative proceedings by the Zoom video meeting application and added that under plans currently being considered, only legislators and staff members will be allowed in the Capitol for the session. Under current plans, members of the media would not be allowed inside the building.
“This session will be conducted on a digital platform and there will be ways for reporters to be able to cover this,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s anybody’s intent to exclude reporters or the public from this.”