Public spaces in Wyoming must shut down through April 3 to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Gov. Mark Gordon endorsed a decision by the Wyoming State Health Officer to close public places for a two-week period. That includes schools, theaters, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, employee cafeterias, self-serve buffets, salad bars, unpackaged self-serve food services, gyms, conference rooms and museums.
Wyoming follows other states in doing so over the past week. Many of those public places had closed on their own during the week in Campbell County.
“This governor has never been inclined to overstep local authority, but these are unprecedented times," Gordon said. "It is critical that there is uniformity across the state in how social distancing measures are implemented.”
Restaurants will be closed to dine-in food service, but may remain open for curbside take-out or drive-through food service.
Under the order, childcare centers will be closed except for those serving essential personnel.
“Wyoming, like all Americans, must commit to reducing the strain on our health care system. These are hard measures and they will be difficult for employees and businesses alike, but they are warranted," Gordon said.
He and First Lady Jennie Gordon planned to talk about COVID-19 and its impact during a fireside chat at 6:30 tonight to communicate directly with Wyoming citizens. Itwill be streamed live on the governor’s Facebook page.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said the action will be very difficult for many residents.
"But it is an important step to help them avoid becoming ill and to help them avoid spreading COVID-19 to those who are most vulnerable," she said. "We should all work together to help keep our friends and neighbors safe.”
Rod Schaefer, general manager of the Foothills Theatre in Gillette was not surprised by the governor’s decision.
“There’s not a lot that we can do about it right now,” he said. “The owners told me this morning, ‘This is going to be your last day.’ We kind of figured it would be mandated.”
The 7:15 p.m. movie showings will be the last residents can catch a new flick at the theater until at least April 3.
“It’s going to kill business,” Schaefer said. “But realistically without new movies coming out these few weeks it would have been slow anyway.”
During the closure, Schaefer said he will help do some “deep” cleaning inside the theater and then stay at home.
City Councilman Bruce Brown, who co-owns a couple of local bars, said Gordon’s announcement will have a big impact.
“We do what we can, it’s got to be done,” Brown said. “Take one for the team. It will hurt us, but it’s the right thing to do so we will do what we need to do.”
Brown said he will shut down as soon as he gets notified.
The news was not a shock, “but when the news hits you, it’s like, ‘Now what do we do?’”
Wyoming has 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of Thursday, the Wyoming Public Health laboratory has completed nearly 300 tests. Additional testing is occurring at commercial laboratories.
A nationwide shortage of testing supplies is impacting Wyoming, like all states. Social distancing measures are the most effective means of slowing the spread of COVID-19, Harrist said.
While most individuals will likely not experience serious illness related to COVID-19, older residents and people with certain health conditions put them at higher risk of developing a serious or life-threatening illness.