A Year Of the Coronavirus: Wyoming Marks Anniversary of First Diagnosis

Cowboy State Daily takes a look back at how the coronavirus affected Wyoming over the past year.

Jim Angell

March 11, 202110 min read


Wyoming’s first year of the coronavirus began with words of caution and ended at almost the same time the bulk of the health orders designed to prevent the spread of the disease was lifted.

Since the first case of coronavirus was diagnosed in the state on March 11, 2020, the state has seen 691 deaths linked to the illness, but also almost 54,000 recoveries.

Business closures and restrictions added to the economic hardships created by slumps in the state’s fossil fuel industry and at one point the state saw an unemployment rate of 8.5%.

Public school closures across the state introduced students to the concept of virtual learning as teachers addressed their students by video.

While Wyoming remained one of the states with the fewest health-related restrictions in the nation through the spring and summer of 2020, that changed in the fall and winter as the number of active cases in the state skyrocketed from 3,266 on Oct. 24 to 11,861 one month later.

The increase prompted Gov. Mark Gordon and state Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist to impose a requirement that people wear face masks in public.

But after that peak, the numbers began to subside, falling below 1,000 by Feb. 6.

Now, with active cases at less than 500 and thousands of Wyoming residents receiving vaccinations against the illness, Gordon and Harrist have announced an end to the mask order, effective Monday, along with an end to the restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses where people tend to gather.

In his announcement that the mask order would be lifted, Gordon thanked Wyoming residents for observing health precautions that helped him avoid calling for more business closures during the peak of the active cases.

“I thank the people of Wyoming for their commitment to keeping one another safe throughout this pandemic,” he said. “It is through their efforts that we have kept our schools and businesses operating and our economy moving forward.

Below are some major dates connected with Wyoming’s first year of coronavirus:

March 11, 2020: Department of Health reports first diagnosed case of coronavirus. It is detected in a Sheridan County woman.

March 12, 2020: Natrona County’s health officer orders the closure of the Class 4A and 3A boys’ and girls’ basketball championships because of the coronavirus.

March 13, 2020: Governor declares a state of emergency, allowing the state to active the National Guard if necessary and allowing businesses to apply for assistance from the SBA.

March 16, 2020: UW moves to online undergraduate courses.

March 17, 2020: Wyoming Coronavirus Case Count Grows To 10

March 18, 2020: Visitations to inmates at Wyoming Department of Corrections institutions has been suspended, the DOC announced Wednesday.

March 19, 2020: Governor issues orders closing bars, fitness clubs, museums, coffee shops and other public spaces. Restaurants can continue to serve drive-through and curb service only.

March 21, 2020: Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney asks the Chinese government to “quit eating bats” in response to Chinese misinformation about the coronavirus.

March 23, 2020: Lander emergency room physician expresses concern that the hospital could get overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

March 24, 2020: Officials from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park announced they were closing the parks until further notice.

March 25, 2020: Devils Tower shuts down. The Park Service said the closure is due to a request of local public health officers from Crook County, WY.

March 25, 2020: Gov. Gordon tells Wyoming residents to stay home. “Your voluntary action and discipline will make the difference on whether we can slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

March 28, 2020: A Teton County spokesperson announced that Governor Gordon was failing the state.

March 30, 2020: Teton County, Jackson issue “stay at home” orders.

April 1, 2020: Conservative firebrand Rep. Scott Clem (R-Campbell County) urged Gov. Gordon — without success — to open schools.

April 1, 2020: Wyoming Medical Society president urged Gov. Gordon to take more drastic measures.

April 1, 2020: A national organization which measured movements by cell phone towers placed Wyoming last out of all states for social distancing. The group did improve the state’s score, however, from an F to and F+.

April 3, 2020: Gov. Mark Gordon issues order for out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days after entering the state.

April 3, 2020: University of Wyoming cancels graduation ceremony and opts for an online ceremony instead.

April 6, 2020: A controversy erupted when it was discovered that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sold 150 out-of-state fishing licenses over the weekend.

April 7, 2020: Health Department issues recommendation for people to wear face masks.

April 8, 2020: Gov. Mark Gordon announces Wyoming is moving closer to the end of the pandemic.

April 8, 2020: Gov. Mark Gordon asked the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to suspend the sale of short-term out-of-state fishing licenses to discourage travel into the state.

April 11, 2020: Wyoming churches pivot from in-person services to digital worship.

April 13, 2020: Department of Health announces first death in Wyoming tied to the coronavirus. Wyoming was the last state to have a virus-related death.

April 13, 2020: Wyoming citizens follow the national trend of howling at the moon as a way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

April 14, 2020: A team of employees from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was deployed to Wyoming to the Wyoming Department of Health.

April 15, 2020: State suspends the sale of non-resident, short-term fishing licenses.

April 17, 2020: A University of Wyoming poll showed 76% of Wyoming residents supported Gov. Gordon’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

April 18, 2020: Hundreds of Cheyenne citizens wait in line for hours to save a well-liked donut shut from shutting down due to coronavirus restrictions.

April 20, 2020: Protestors gather at Capitol to urge Gordon to reopen businesses.

April 21, 2020: A bar in Pinedale found a loophole to remain open by opening an outside bar.

April 23, 2020: Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction announced that schools can soon begin reopening on a limited basis.

April 29, 2020: Wyoming’s social distancing scorecard increases from an F+ to a D+.

April 29, 2020: Seven Republican legislators criticize Gov. Mark Gordon’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. One of those legislators, Roy Edwards from Campbell County, would later die from the virus.

April 30, 2020: Gordon and Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist allow the reopening of gyms and other businesses providing personal services, such as hair salons.

April 30, 2020: Teton County announces it will opt-out of state plans and keep gyms and hair salons closed.

April 30, 2020: Buffalo, Wyoming’s popular Longmire Days gets postponed for at least a month.

May 4, 2020: Department of Health begins granting exemptions from restaurant/bar closures for some counties.

May 7, 2020: Gordon announces bars and restaurants will be allowed to re-open on May 15 with restrictions.

May 8, 2020: The town of Cody announced they were spending $10,000 on a machine to test for the coronavirus in the sewage system.

May 10, 2020: Wyoming recorded its 500th case of the coronavirus.

May 12, 2020: Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney told FOX News that China intentionally spread the virus to the rest of the world.

May 13, 2020: A Sheridan brewery owner took to social media claiming that the Sheridan Police Department threatened to close the establishment due to a lack of mask-enforcement.

May 13, 2020: U.S. Sen. John Barrasso says U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $3 trillion Covid package was proof she was living on “Fantasy Island”.

May 15, 2020: Gordon reopens restaurants, bars with restrictions.

May 15, 2020: Legislature begins virtual special session to authorize Gordon’s plan for spending $1.25 billion in federal CARES money. The plans include relief for businesses, families and businesses hurt by the pandemic, reimbursement for costs associated with the coronavirus and rental assistance.

May 17, 2020: “The Den,” a strip club south of Cheyenne, becomes one of the first strip clubs in America to reopen.

May 21, 2020: After 50 days in a hospital, a Fremont County man was discharged after recovering from Covid-19.

May 27, 2020: Cheyenne Frontier Days and officials with five of the state’s other largest rodeos announce they will cancel their 2020 seasons. The Cody Stampede initially joins the group, but then later decides to proceed with its rodeo.

June 4, 2020: Gordon asked his agency heads to prepare plans to cut their spending by 20% to deal with dramatic reductions in revenue for the state.

June 9, 2020: In a departure from other Wyoming rodeos, officials with the Cody Stampede announce they will be holding the annual rodeo over the first weekend of July.

June 15, 2020: Gordon announces schools, including the University of Wyoming, can resume in-person classes.

June 19, 2020: Longmire Days officially canceled.

June 27, 2020: Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney tweeted a photo of her Dad, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a mask and the outcome was predictably explosive on social media.

June 30, 2020: Jackson Town Council passes resolution requiring face coverings in public.

July 15, 2020: In an emotional news conference, Gov. Gordon reiterated his concerns about the pandemic and criticized the lack of empathy some Wyoming citizens were showing.

July 20, 2020: The State of Wyoming approved a mandatory mask mandate in Teton County.

July 20, 2020: The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming tops 500 for the first time.

July 28, 2020: New figures from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group showed that Wyoming’s budget shortfall improved to -$1.4 billion.

July 28, 2020: In an emotional news conference, Gov. Mark Gordon said if “you’re dead set on taking down Wyoming’s economy, don’t wear a mask.”

August 18, 2020: A study showed that Wyoming’s alcohol consumption and sales went up in the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic.

August 26, 2020: In an emotional news conference, the Wyoming Dept of Health announced its budget was slashed by $138 Million. Gov Gordon called it devastating.

Sept. 16, 2020: Wyoming exceeds 100 new laboratory-confirmed cases in one day.

Sept. 23, 2020: Casper couple appears on CNN to say the coronavirus is not a hoax.

Oct. 14, 2020: Wyoming residents surveyed by the University of Wyoming remain divided over whether the coronavirus is a real threat or has been blown out of proportion.

Oct. 27, 2020: More than 100 people were hospitalized in Wyoming with COVID.

Oct. 27, 2020: The percentage of Wyoming residents regularly using face masks while in public is the lowest in the country, according to a survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University.

Nov. 2, 2020: The number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming tops 5,000 for the first time.

Nov. 4, 2020: Announcement of 12 coronavirus-linked deaths brings total Wyoming fatalities to more than 100.

Nov. 13, 2020: Gov. Gordon calls individuals who were ignoring medical advice and putting Wyoming citizens at risk “knuckleheads”

Nov. 23, 2020: Wyoming peaks for new laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases reported in one day at 1,251.

Nov. 24, 2020: The number of active coronavirus cases in the state peaks at 11,861.

Nov. 25, 2020: Gov Gordon tests positive for coronavirus.

Dec. 1, 2020: U.S. Sen. appears on FOX News to announce first vaccine virus will be delivered by Dec 11; urges everyone to get vaccinated.

Dec. 7, 2020: Gordon issues statewide mask mandate, restricts gathering sizes.

Dec. 8, 2020: Sens. Enzi, Barrasso, and Rep. Cheney announce they support Gordon’s mask mandate.

Dec. 11, 2020: Announcement of 22 coronavirus-related deaths pushes fatality total over 300.

Dec. 15, 2020: First Wyoming resident, a public health nurse, gets COVID vaccine.

Dec. 27, 2020: Active case numbers drop below 2,000 for the first time since mid-October.

Jan 4, 2021: Conservative firebrand Scott Clem calls for civil disobedience at maskless protest in Cheyenne.

Jan 8, 2021: Weston County Commissioners oust health officer after denying variance request

Jan. 12, 2021: Covid-related Wyoming deaths exceed 500 with the reporting of 33 new deaths.

Jan. 21, 2021: An executive order by new President Joe Biden will add federal facilities to the list of places where face masks are required in Wyoming.

Feb. 6, 2021: Active case numbers drop below 1,000 for the first time since late September.

March 10, 2021: The Wyoming Legislature is considering multiple bills to limit public health orders in the state in a reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

March 15, 2021: Gordon lifts mask mandate, restrictions on bars and restaurants.

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Jim Angell