The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming jumped to 41 by Wednesday morning, with eight new cases reported in six counties.
The increase of cases came as state officials ordered the closure of non-essential personal service businesses such as hair salons and barbershops.
Gov. Mark Gordon, along with State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, announced the new order early Tuesday evening. Beginning Wednesday through at least April 3, businesses and outlets where “appropriate social distancing measures are not practical” are affected, according to a press release announcing the closure.
It applies to businesses such as nail salons, barber shops, cosmetology services, electrology and other things deemed “esthetic” in nature, the order says. That means the closure of massage parlors, along with tattoo and body piercing shops.
Services deemed “medically necessary” can remain open.
“While I understand the impact and sympathize with those most affected by these measures, especially small business owners, I support Dr. Harrist’s recommendation because this is about saving lives,” Gordon said. “We have tried to navigate a thoughtful course, but as COVID-19 spreads through our communities, we must take this action now.”
Harrist said the reason for the order is simple.
“People who are ill with COVID-19 can easily spread this disease to others to anyone nearby if they cough or sneeze. Staying away from others as much as possible helps protect all of us, including those who are most vulnerable to illness complications.”
The order supplements previous statewide orders issued last week closing certain public spaces and prohibiting gatherings of 10 people or more in a single room or confined space.
At GypsySoul Salon in Gillette, the order came after the salon had already its doors days earlier.
“I have three girls that work in my salon, all three of which are immune compromised in their own way,” said owner Jade Novotny. “We also have a ton of clients that have done chemo, have newborns at home or also are immune compromised, so we all discussed heavily on what we should do.”
Novotny said as they watched other states order non-essential businesses like barbers and hair salons closed, the writing seemed on the wall.
Although it’s the safe move, she admitted to being scared about how the shutdown could impact small businesses.
“Any small owner is probably terrified on being forced to close,” she said. “Not having an income for two, maybe more weeks, is absolutely mortifying. Most salon (employees) are scared because we are mostly self-employed, so we don’t qualify for unemployment or other government aid.
“At the end of the day, I knew it was coming and did my best to prepare my stylists and myself.”
She also said she won’t be going to private homes to do haircuts.
“We feel that if we are doing social distancing, it needs to be followed entirely,” Novotny said, adding that depending on the license a stylist has, it may not be allowed.
At Mo Tattoos, owner Morgan Johnson said she’s disappointed with the new state order, but understands the need for it.
“Well, we think it’s best to do our part to help the community get through this,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely not ideal and we can’t wait to get back to work already, but we need to do what we need to do.”
More cases confirmed
The Wyoming Health Department reported Wednesday evening that new cases were diagnosed in Laramie, Natrona, Carbon, Sweetwater, Teton and Fremont counties.
The case in Sweetwater County was the county’s first.
Fremont County remained the hardest hit county in the state with 13 cases, followed by Laramie County with 11. Sheridan and Natrona counties each had four cases, Carbon and Teton each had three and Campbell, Park and Sweetwater each have one.
In Campbell County, one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in a woman who is not hospitalized, according to the county Public Health Department.
Since the state reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 11, testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has increased in volume and capacity.
The Wyoming Department of Health reports that as of Wednesday morning, the state lab has completed 735 coronavirus tests and Wyoming commercial labs have reported 171 tests. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has completed one test for the state.
In Campbell County, the WDH reports the state lab has completed testing on 107 samples and has 12 samples pending results.
Of the 41 confirmed cases in the state so far, there have been no deaths and seven people have recovered.