By Bill Sniffin, publisher, Cowboy State Daily
While members of Wyoming’s chambers of commerce agree something must be done to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state, they disagreed on how to accomplish that goal in an online meeting with Gov. Mark Gordon on Tuesday.
Business owners uniformly expressed concern about the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state, but differed on the measures that should be implented by the state.
“In Natrona County, we are a mess, an absolute mess,” said Kim Devore of Casper’s Jonah Bank. “Our hospital is overrun. Daycares are closing. Businesses are closing. The curve is not stopping. It is going straight up. It seems awful easy to do a mask mandate. We cannot do it on our own, evidently.”
Dixie Johnson of the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce said restaurant owners in Sheridan are suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic. She added she would support a statewide order requiring the use of face masks over business closures.
But Shalee Harvey of Thermopolis, who just started a bakery with her husband, said she does not favor a mask mandate.
“Quality of life is important,” she said. “I will not let my business go under because we had to wear a mask. It should not depend on whether the government should say we are open or not.”
Gordon noted that a statewide mask requirement is a very political issue and added he would like to see the state work together, as it did earlier this year, to slow the spread of the illness.
“We brought this down back in the spring so we know we can deal with this again. I want us to have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Christmas,” he said. “Working together we can do what is necessary so that we can come out in the spring and be OK.”
Gordon said because of his recent experience with coronavirus, he is confident face masks prevent the spread of the illness.
Gordon tested negative for the illness despite spending an entire day with a person who later tested positive. Both wore masks throughout the day.
If the state cannot somehow stem the spread of the illness, business could be forced to close, Gordon said.
“We have got to get a handle on it,” he said. “We have to maintain a productive workforce in the state. We have tried to use flexibility with the counties. And I have to take the blame for putting the county health officers in such a difficult position.”
Karlee Applegate, a health care worker in Casper, said the state must work harder to convince people to follow the basic steps needed to prevent the spread of COVID.
“We missed a primary opportunity at the beginning to teach people infection control practices,” she said. “That is the key to solving this. People have not been taught mask hygiene.”
Gordon wound up the meeting by saying “we all have rights and we all have responsibilities. We need both. We have to work together or we are sunk together.”