A formal stay-at-home order won’t protect Wyoming residents any more than directives already in place, an animated Gov. Mark Gordon said at a Friday afternoon briefing about the state’s ongoing response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But he stressed adherence to those directives is essential in eventually curbing the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Cowboy State and its communities. Gordon also seemed at bit exasperated that some people aren’t following the recommendations to stay at home and avoid contact with others.
“That is the behavior we need and it is critical we behave this way,” he said. “Stay home, practice extra hygiene, practice social distance, don’t mob stores or allow your kids to gather up for play dates.”
For the most part, “residents by-and-large are behaving appropriately,” Gordon added. “I apologize for my outburst, but it seems to me the critical thing now is how we respond, how we behave … at this critical juncture.”
Shortly before his briefing, Gordon’s office announced an extension of the three orders he and state Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist have implemented closing schools and other public places, including non-essential businesses, along with limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people through April 30.
Gordon’s new directive also says anyone coming to Wyoming from another state or country for a non-work-related reason should self-quarantine for 14 days. If a visit is fewer than 14 days, the person must self-quarantine for the duration of the visit.
He said he wants to discourage “out-of-state visitors seeking refuge in Wyoming” because virus-related restrictions may not be as stringent here as elsewhere. Gordon specifically pointed out that despite Colorado being under a shelter-in-place order, there are still a number of people driving across the border to Wyoming anyway daily.
He also amended an earlier order that closed restaurants but allows them to maintain delivery and take-out services. Now only curbside service will be allowed for take-out orders and customers are not to go into a restaurant to pick up food.
He also strongly urged people to only go to the store for essential needs and that only one person make that shopping trip.
“This is not the time to be doing social visits to your favorite retail outlet or convenience store,” Gordon said.
What about relief money?
As some state lawmakers call on Gordon to convene a special session of the Legislature to deal with the $1.45 billion in virus relief Wyoming is set to receive from the federal CARES Act, the governor said it’s a little premature for that now.
There won’t be much for lawmakers to do until the state receives all the information from the federal government about that money and how it’s to be used, he said. But when that is available, a special session may be called.
“We may well have a special session, but the earliest we expect (that information) will come to us is around April 24 … (and) an early session really doesn’t make sense,” he said, adding that it could happen sometime in late May or early June.
He also said that as the COVID-19 threat continues to impact Wyoming and limit movement and the state’s economy, how long state government can continue to maintain its current level of employment is unclear.
“All options are on the table,” Gordon said when asked about the potential for layoffs or wage reductions. “I would also say we are evaluating how we can be more efficient in ways we can deliver and we are doing our very, very best to preserve state functions and that we do it within a balanced budget.”
‘What are you waiting for?’
The most important thing any Wyoming resident can do is follow the guidelines already in place, Gordon said.
“Let me make it clear that Wyoming is applying every asset we have to combat this crisis of COVID-19,” he said. “We must focus on improving compliance and adherence. That’s how we protect lives, that’s how you save lives.”
Gordon also had a message for anyone with the mindset that they won’t stay at home until he issues a formal shelter-in-place order.
“What we did (in already-implemented orders) was say stay home, wash your hands, maintain social distancing, don’t go to the store unless you have to,” Gordon said. “That is essentially what a stay-at-home order is.
“If you were waiting for me to issue a shelter-in-place order when you have (the health care industry) telling you to stay home and I’m telling you to stay home, what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for ‘mother may I?’”