By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon began his Friday morning news conference by expressing both concern and anger about the fact that coronavirus cases and deaths are rising rapidly in the state.
Gordon said those who refuse to take recommended precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus are putting the state’s most vulnerable citizens at risk, noting that most of the deaths associated with COVID so far have occurred in long-term care facilities. Residents of those facilities are already suffering from anxiety and depression, he said.
“We need to allow people to get in to see [their family], so they don’t feel so isolated,” Gordon said. “We’re also putting them at greater risk, because we’re being knuckleheads about this.”
He stressed the point that coronavirus cases have surged all over the state, noting that stricter health orders were coming, likely in the next week.
“We’ve relied on personal responsibility throughout this pandemic,” he said. “So ask yourself has that really been working? Have people been taking the resposibility we’ve asked them to?
“So my problem is if I can’t rely on you, I’m going to have to do something else.” he added.
Gordon touched on the fact that in the last month, Wyoming has seen the most coronavirus-related deaths of any period since the illness was first detected in Wyoming in mid-March.
“Our state is under the most strain that it has seen since [the pandemic] began and it’s not letting up,” he said. “It’s going straight up.”
South Dakota, which has also seen a skyrocketing of cases, is now sending patients to Wyoming, but the state’s hospitals and medical facilities under further strain.
Infection rates have heavily increased almost daily for more than a month, with Gordon noting that Wyoming is either fifth or third in nation currently for infection rates, not far behind both Dakotas.
“I’ve had to provide funding to bring in more personnel to be able to augment the challenges we see with increasing hospitalization rates,” Gordon said.
He expressed frustration at Wyomingites who have treated the virus as a hoax or have disregarded the calls for masks and social distancing, even raising his voice at one point.
“Our state is at a fever pitch,” he said. “Every piece of information that is conveyed, somebody comes up with another piece of bogus information to try to disprove it.”
He called on those who didn’t believe the virus was a real threat to ask themselves if they felt better about what was happening in Wyoming compared to the summer, when infection rates and hospitalizations were at a low point.
Wyoming health officials and organizations are asking Gordon to implement a statewide mask mandate, something he wouldn’t confirm during the Friday news conference.
Three Wyoming counties, Teton, Laramie and Albany, currently have mask mandates in place, but Sublette County recently requested a variance for an order, as well. Natrona County has a softer mandate implemented, requiring masks in all county buildings.