By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
As businesses across Wyoming reopen their doors with the relaxation of state health orders, state residents need to make sure they are abiding by safety recommendations to avoid the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, formally announced the relaxation of orders, effective Friday, that closed restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other businesses expected to draw 10 or more people and restricted gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
However, certain safety guidelines will remain in place and the state’s residents will still have to observe social distancing and good hygiene to prevent the spread or a resurgence of coronavirus, Gordon said.
“This is a truly exciting time for Wyoming,” he said. “It is also one that is a cautionary time for Wyoming. This is not a ‘Hold my beer’ moment. This is a ‘Let’s do this carefully’ and make sure we don’t lose the ground we’ve gained.”
In the last week, state officials have approved requests from most of Wyoming’s counties to reopen bars and restaurants
In all cases where the openings were allowed, groups of people must keep six feet away from each other, staff will have to wear face coverings and businesses and institutions will have to be sanitized regularly.
When the statewide orders are relaxed on Friday, the rules for all of the state’s bars and restaurants, along with movie theaters, will be almost identical.
Gordon also announced that the order limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people will be relaxed to allow up to 25 people to gather. The order will also be altered to allow churches and funeral homes to operate as long as social distancing rules and other safeguards are observed.
The new relaxed orders will be in place until May 31, Gordon said, giving officials a chance to slowly advance toward a full reopening of the state.
Gordon made it clear that if conditions around the state deteriorate, he will put the more stringent rules back in place and reminded listeners that coronavirus is still present.
“It is important to remember that even as we ease restrictions, the virus is not gone,” he said. “It is still capable of wreaking havoc. And it’s going to be with us for some time here in Wyoming. It’s time to get our head in the game. We are trying to work our way safely back to as normal a condition as we can get.”
Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, both said the willingness of state residents to abide by social distancing recommendations and limit contact with others contributed to the fact that Wyoming has limited the spread of coronavirus.
While some have criticized Gordon for closing restaurants, bars, movie theaters and similar businesses, he said he believes the state struck the proper balance and noted he never issued a “stay-at-home” order.
“With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to say that we might have done too much,” he said. “I would say we’ve done what we should do and we will be very careful as we move forward.”
Also during the news conference, Gordon announced that Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks would open with limited operations on Monday.
Because Montana still has travel restrictions in place, the only entries to Yellowstone will be through its south gate near Jackson and its east gate near Cody. Overnight lodging and full-service restaurants will not be available, but visitors will be able to travel through the park and stop at popular features such as Old Faithful Geyser.
Gordon said he supported the decision of the National Park Service to open the parks in phases.
“The goal is not to have the services overwhelmed and to make sure we are not overwhelmed with visitors initially,” he said.