By Bill Sniffin, publisher, Cowboy State Daily
What a slog the last six months have been, as we have had to deal with a mysterious worldwide viral pandemic called COVID-19.
Do I really want to write about COVID-19? Is everybody out there as tired about talking about the coronavirus epidemic as I am?
Now, let me be clear. I am not saying this is not a big story. And for sure, it is a gigantic international health emergency. When it started, I thought this might be the biggest news story of my career. Across the country, the number of deaths approaches 200,000. But covering the story has become somewhat wearisome.
In my day job as publisher of the Cowboy State Daily digital news service platform, we counted 550 stories about coronavirus that we produced so far in 2020. What an extraordinary number!
And how people react to the virus is so political. There has been many a dispute across the Cowboy State in the past six months where mask wearers have been upset with their non-mask wearing brethren. By the way, at my age, I try to always wear my mask.
The country is torn apart. Most recently there has been rioting in the streets. These protests have crossed over to the pro football, basketball, and baseball leagues.
A whole bunch of ornery sorts have given up watching pro sports because of it. In that group of coffee drinkers that I call the Fox News All-Stars here in Lander, nine out of 11 guys recently told me they gave up watching professional sports.
I am still watching. Hard to give up pro sports. But these formerly dedicated sports watchers have given it up because of all the distractions. They do not watch pro sports anymore – except hockey and golf, I guess.
Apparently, the disease is rampant across the country. There is one prominent Wyomingite in his 50s who got really sick and is still reeling from the consequences. Based on what he went through, yikes. This is not something to sneeze at, literally.
But then again, a few years ago a good friend of ours died of flu complications and she was in her early 50s and in good health. There are lots of bad bugs out there.
Our state statistics are amazing. Wyoming’s coronavirus numbers just blow my mind. As I write this on Sept. 17, 2020, here are some numbers to ponder:
Wyoming population – 551,000.
Folks tested – 42,402.
Tested positive – 3,866.
Probable cases – 700.
Deaths – 49.
Persons sick now – 603.
Recovered – 4,000.
The statistics show 7.6% of the Wyoming population has been tested, with the percentage of people of Wyoming dying from COVID-19 being so small it almost does not register. Just one out of 11,700 people in the state have died from the virus. In comparison, there have been 79 traffic deaths so far in 2020.
Outside of Alaska, Wyoming appears to be the safest place in the USA if you do not want to die from COVID-19. Alaska has 44 deaths. Wyoming is sitting at 49.
I now fear we are living in a time of great over-reaction. As I wrote in an earlier column, when we watched those scenes of emergency rooms in Italy and New York City last spring, well, it just scared us to death. Most everyone wanted to shut things down to protect folks.
Original estimates of deaths for Wyoming were over 150. Did our social distancing really save us from that outcome? There are a lot of doubters here.
The Cowboy State has now passed its biggest test with flying colors. We hosted 6 million tourists this summer and lived through it with very few infections from such a big influx of out of staters.
I asked in a column several months ago how does the virus fare in Wyoming’s windy and hot wide-open spaces that tend to be very, very dry? It appears that the virus definitely did not thrive. And that is good news. Also, maybe Wyoming people really are healthier.
Plus, folks here have been practicing social distancing since 1890. At first, it was easy to stay put, especially during wintry March and April days. Despite the smoke, we then enjoyed a fabulous summer. Our Wyoming economy probably did not need to be shut down to the extent that it was, but who knew? Maybe it was better to be safe than sorry.
I am glad the economy is continuing to open up and I can see much better days ahead. Two years from now, we will look back at these times in amazement and wonder.