Even as some state residents balk at a raft of emergency orders that have basically shut down public places and nonessential services, Gov. Mark Gordon continues to plead with Wyomingites to stay home to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While those orders that limit gatherings of people to fewer than 10 are now voluntary, he said that could change if people ignore directives to social distance and only go out when absolutely necessary.
“We are not trying to shut down Wyoming, but your voluntary actions and discipline … will make a difference in Wyoming for you, your family and your neighbors,” the governor said during a Wednesday afternoon update about state efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am doing my best to avoid a shelter-in-place order,” Gordon said.
If forced, however, the governor said he’s prepared to not only make that decision, but enforce it.
“If we have to issue that order, we will and we do have the means to enforce that, either through law enforcement or others,” Gordon said. “Hopefully, the good wisdom of Wyoming citizens being asked to do so (is enough). We are trying to avoid that unless absolutely necessary.”
Maintaining public health in communities across the state while doing as much as possible to make sure “Wyoming stays at work” are his top priorities, Gordon said.
“Our efforts have been designed to do our best to flatten the curve, and it’s absolutely essential we flatten our curve by staying home, making sure we do social distancing and practice good hygiene,” he said. “This is an incredibly challenging time for our state and our nation. I am confident we are going to get through this.”
The importance of social distancing goes along with not taxing local health care workers and first responders, he said. That’s because in a rural state, there aren’t enough workers and hospital beds to treat things that aren’t emergencies.
“If we see a surge of cases, we could see our health care providers be overwhelmed with patients,” Gordon said, adding that if those workers are themselves infected, it takes them out of the picture of treating others.
What about schools?
While schools have had extended breaks scheduled through April 3, the COVID-19 danger won’t be over by that time.
“We all know that,” Gordon said while explaining that an update on whether to start public schools again or recommend other options will come in the next couple of days.
Asked if public school shutdowns could be extended beyond April 3, Gordon said “there’s a likelihood” of that and state officials “are reviewing that now.”
The challenge there is making sure all of the state’s school districts are on the same page and that there’s a plan in place to continue the education of Wyoming students and making sure high school seniors can graduate, he said.
Shortage of testing supplies
Also, while the state has increased its ability to test for the coronavirus at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory in Cheyenne by “tenfold,” Gordon said there is still a shortage of supplies for doing the test in Wyoming and nationwide.
The state has a limited supply of test kits for each county and 2,650 of them will be distributed by the end of this week and a priority system has been established for using the tests.
As other more populous states have ordered more than 100 million people across the United States to not leave their homes, Gordon said his goal is to avoid that in Wyoming.
He said the threat posed by the coronavirus “will be addressed the Wyoming way, the proper way.”
44 confirmed cases
The Wyoming Health Department report Wednesday afternoon that three new cases have been confirmed in the state, bringing the total to 44.
An Albany County case is that county's first, while Teton County picked up two more cases for a total of five.
Fremont County remains 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 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 afternoon, the state lab has completed 758 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.