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 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, social distancing in the business, 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 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 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.”

Local reaction

In Gillette, Gordon’s order easing some restrictions is welcome news for GypsySoul Salon owner Jade Novotny. It’s also frustrating, because adjusting to the new regulations that will allow her to reopen can’t happen overnight.

That’s why although allowed to reopen Friday, she won’t until May 12.

“I am actually torn on it,” Novotny said in reaction to Gordon’s announcement Tuesday afternoon.

Her salon will have to make some modifications to satisfy the requirements, but Novotny said she and her stylists are excited to “have some answers” instead of being in limbo.

She said it will take about a week to make some “serious accommodations” throughout her shop, like spacing out work stations at least 6 feet apart. She also can’t allow people to wait inside before and after appointments.

“It’s a little soon,” she said. “I’m choosing not to open Friday. With the changes I have to make, it’s absolutely not enough time with my space and stylists.”

She also said that while the easing of restrictions will allow some of her employees to start working again after about six weeks of not getting a paycheck, business will be far for usual.

There will be a limit on the number of clients they can serve because of the social distancing requirements. Also, Novotny said she’s heard from many clients that they want to support the business, but aren’t yet comfortable going into a salon.

“We’ve been blessed to have an incredible group of clients to support us,” she said.

County holds the line for now

Part of Gordon’s new orders is a provision allowing county public health agencies to apply for a variance to state restrictions if conditions warrant. That could include asking to tighten up restrictions or loosening them more than allowed statewide, he said.

County administrative director Carol Seeger said the new orders will not trigger a reopening of the courthouse and the county’s other facilities right away.

“In many respects, we are able to operate outside of a particular order, but we’ve always taken the lead of following the governor’s lead on reopening,” she said.

The county’s departments have been thinking about the day when they are allowed to reopen to the public and some have consulted with Public Health on how to do that, she said.

“In anticipation of things reopening, we’ve begun internal discussions about how we would do that, what types of precautionary measures we would take,” Seeger said.

Frustrating, but necessary

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 taken 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.”

News Record writers Gregory Hasman and Jonathan Gallardo contributed to this story.

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