By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s smallest county has won a variance exempting it from the statewide health orders requiring the use of face masks in public settings and limiting the hours of bars and restaurants.
Niobrara County commissioners, in a statement, said the state on Dec. 23 granted the county’s request for an exemption to the new orders issued Dec. 9 limiting public gatherings to 10 people or fewer, requiring the use of face masks in public settings where social distancing is not possible and requiring restaurants and bars to close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Niobrara County officials on Dec. 10 set a letter to Gov. Mark Gordon expressing concerns about the orders designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, especially given the county’s low population and low rate of positive coronavirus test results.
As of Tuesday, Niobrara County had one active coronavirus case, the lowest number in the state.
Commissioners expressed gratitude for the variance approved by Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, but also urged county residents to be respectful of others and follow precautions to prevent the spread of the illness.
“It is important that we become even more respectful of others in our daily lives,” the statement said. “There are many in our community that are very vulnerable to the virus, and we need to be especially considerate of their concerns.”
Commissioners also said businesses are free to adopt their own requirements for customers to wear masks before entering their stores.
“If we are defending an owner’s right not to be restricted by the mask mandate, then we also need to equally defend the rights of an owner to require a customer to have a face covering to enter their establishment,” the statement said.