By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming is backsliding on taking the action needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and if the number of cases seen in the state continues to grow, the state’s economy could suffer, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.
Gordon, during his regular press briefing, said if the state continued its pace of seeing 98 new laboratory-confirmed cases per day, people would stop leaving their homes and contributing to economic growth.
“Here in Wyoming our diligence seemed to slide a little bit,” he said. “Now we have some very serious deterioration in conditions. That means fewer people are going to feel safe going out for supper, going to the store. That will slow our economic recovery. We need exactly the opposite to happen. We need people to feel comfortable going out.”
He added that the number of cases has grown so quickly — with 1,304 active cases recorded Monday — that he has directed the Wyoming National Guard to help the Wyoming Department of Health conduct contact tracing to track those who have been in contact with people who have the coronavirus. The Guard will help the department for 30 days, Gordon said.
Gordon did not say that more stringent public health orders might be restored if the state’s coronavirus cases continued to grow.
However, he did note that the state has relaxed most of its limits on activity, hoping Wyoming residents would continue to practice the steps recommended to stop the spread of coronavirus, such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands and wearing face masks when social distancing is not possible.
If those precautions are not followed, the state’s economy will go backward, he said.
Both Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said the rapid growth in cases is putting a strain on the state’s hospitals. As of Monday, 36 coronavirus patients are in Wyoming hospitals, the highest number seen since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March.
“A big and very real worry is for the hospitals to be pushed beyond their limits,” Harrist said. “It is important to remember that many of Wyoming’s hospitals are small, with a limited number of beds for the most seriously ill patients.”
Harrist noted that no restrictions are in place for most activities in the state, now, but urged residents to take the proper precautions as they engage in activities.
“Everything is open in Wyoming right now,” she said. “There’s nothing you can’t do. The key is to be able to do them safely. Take those relatively simple precautions.”
Harrist also announced that the state has signed a contract with a private company to provide at-home coronavirus testing kits.