Saying the state needs to take small, deliberate steps while emerging from coronavirus-related restrictions, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wyoming is poised to be at the front of the pack in re-energizing local, state and national economies.

He also bristled some about people generalizing the easing of those restrictions as “opening up” the economy.

“We never closed the economy,” Gordon said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “What we did was put some restrictions in place for public safety, but we allowed people to continue working.”

Gordon’s briefing came about an hour after he announced the first step in easing those restrictions is allowing gyms, barber shops, hair salons and other personal care services to resume operations beginning Friday.

They’re being allowed to reopen under tight operating conditions in what the governor called the “first step” in a “methodical, measured approach moving forward. As we see progress, we can continue to move forward.”

The limits in the new health orders include:

For gyms: Limits on the number of people allowed in a facility, retirement that staff wear face coverings and locker rooms remain closed. Gyms also can’t yet offer one-on-one personal training and group classes.

Child care operations: They may reopen or continue to operate under existing regulations that include groups being limited to fewer than 10 per room and following regular health screening and cleaning protocols.

Personal care: Nail and hair salons, barber shops, cosmetology, electrology and other esthetic services may open in a limited capacity. This also includes massage therapy services, tattoo and body art parlors. They also must follow limitations for the number of clients inside at a time, wearing face coverings and eliminating waiting areas.

Elective surgeries: These will be allowed effective immediately, under certain conditions similar to those for the other orders.

At the same time, Gordon also said the state also is easing back on restaurants. While they still aren’t allowed to open their dining rooms to customers, they can allow up to five people at a time inside to pick up to-go orders. Those picking up inside also must still observe 6-foot social distancing along with wearing face coverings and taking other “common sense” measures to protect public health.

He also said that it’s important that, as much as people are able, to support restaurants by ordering out. Gordon also said he and his wife have done “virtual” haircuts, where they sent checks to their hair stylists to let them know they support them.

“Making sure we order out to keep those restaurants in business (is important),” he said. “I am very anxious we get those businesses back and going, and we are working on restaurants and other areas.”

The deliberate approach may tax the patience of some, but it’s the right way to begin what will likely be a long process overall, said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer.

“Unfortunately, it is too soon for us to be making giant leaps,” she said. “I want us to move forward, but safely.”

Gordon said that while he’s pleased with how Wyoming residents have taking a no-nonsense approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the Cowboy State, letting the guard up now could mean a backslide that could be even worse.

“I am certain of one thing,” Gordon said. “If we get this wrong, it will be more devastating to Wyoming and we will lose the ground we’ve gained.”

See Wednesday’s News Record for more on the governor’s easing of some COVID-19 measures and local reaction.

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