By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
There’s not been a lot that’s happened over the last 14 months in Wyoming that could be considered “normal.” But in the last few weeks, conditions have inched a little closer.
With declines in coronavirus cases and a growing percentage of Wyoming residents obtaining the COVID vaccine, institutions are opening back up and loosening the restrictions that were in place to slow the spread of the illness.
Nursing homes are being allowed to provide short visitation periods, students can enjoy school dances and in-person graduation ceremonies again, and more schools are winning approval to end requirements for mask use.
One of the biggest changes from last year is the planning for in-person graduation ceremonies across the state.
While last year saw students attend virtual events or sit in cars to watch commencement speakers, full, in-person ceremonies are being planned at various schools, including Central Wyoming College, Casper College and Laramie County Community College.
The University of Wyoming will hold in-person commencement ceremonies, but will also offer a “hybrid” option for graduates to be recognized virtually.
Also opening graduation ceremonies to the public is Northwest College, said public information officer Carey Miller.
“We heard from our 2020 graduates that they were sad about not getting to have the same experience,” she explained. “So we decided early on that we wanted to try and give them the best experience that we possibly could — and do in person graduation.”
Miller said state rules will allow up to 500 people in the Cabre Gym, where the ceremony will be held — although there will be some requirements for social distancing and mask use.
As Wyoming relies heavily on tourism, attractions that last year were shuttered or strictly limited are planning to welcome the public with outstretched arms.
Officials with Cheyenne Frontier Days, which was canceled last year, announced the 10-day rodeo will go on as normal this year without social distancing or mask requirements for concerts, rodeos and other outdoor activities.
This is welcome news for an event that saw an over $3 million loss last year.
Vaccines have gone a long way towards returning the state to pre-pandemic status, according to Kathy Emmons, executive director for the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department
“We don’t want to have to go back to limiting businesses and things like that,” she told Cowboy State Daily earlier this month. “And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure everybody can go back to work and can go out and shop. And you can only do that if you’ve got that protection.”