By Alexis Barker, Newcastle News Letter Journal
Despite Weston County having just 29 active cases of COVID-19, the county’s public health officer denied a county wide variance allowing bars and restaurants to stay open past 10 p.m., according to Weston County Commissioner Marty Ertman.
As previously reported, the commissioners requested a variance that would suspend Gov. Mark Gordon’s Dec. 7 orders enacting a curfew for bars and restaurants. On Dec. 15, Ertman expressed concern about potential travel for the New Year’s Eve holiday if local establishments were closed.
“We need to encourage people to stay in our own tribe,” Ertman told Jording. “If you could grant Weston County a variance allowing bars and restaurants to stay open, it would encourage our tribe to stay here. We would not be encouraging people to go over there (South Dakota). We are just asking people to pool over there, probably from a six-state area.”
She noted that with Weston County being in the “green,” according to the White House matrix, Jording should be able to grant the variance.
Gordon had stated in a press release announcing the statewide orders that there are guidelines in place to determine if a county is safe enough to suspend the public health orders.
“These next few months are going to be challenging for our businesses, citizens, families, and our healthcare workers,” Gordon stated in the release. “This is a necessary step to ensure a happy and healthy holiday season and a safer and Merry Christmas, and set ourselves in good stead for the new year.”
The county commissioners, however, expressed concern that the orders would only send people outside the area where they might contract COVID-19 then return to Weston County, possibly spreading the virus.
“This request, I don’t think, is unreasonable. There are provisions in the new set of orders,” Jording said at the time, noting that he would have to review the documents before deciding if he could support the requested variances or not.
Roughly a week after Jording received the variances for review, Ertman reported on Facebook that both Jording and Wyoming Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist had denied the variance. She added that Niobrara County had all of its requested variances approved.
Attempts to contact Jording for comment on his reason for denying the variances were unsuccessful by press time.