The public health orders issued in March to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state will remain in place until at least April 30, Gov. Mark Gordon announced.
Gordon’s announcement came as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continued to climb, but at a much slower rate than what was seen several weeks ago, increasing by 12 over Friday’s numbers to total 317 on Monday afternoon.
Gordon, in a statement Friday, said because Wyoming residents have adhered to the public health orders and followed recommendations to stay at home as much as possible, the number of coronavirus cases has been much lower than originally predicted.
“You have done what was asked and have helped flatten the curve,” he said.
However, the state must resist lifting restrictions too quickly to guard against a second wave of the illness, he said.
“Our transition into a new phase must be health data-driven, not date driven,” he said. “If the people of Wyoming continue to do the right thing and we see the improvements we need to see, we will continue our transition to a stabilized economy. We need our economy back, but we must avoid a resurgence of this virus.”
Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, in March issued public health orders closing schools and businesses where more than 10 people are likely to gather, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people and closing businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors.
He later ordered visitors from outside Wyoming to self-quarantine for 14 days after reaching the state.
Gordon said as officials develop plans to move away from restrictions, those plans will include continued social distancing guidelines and operating guidelines for businesses. He added Wyoming will also work with other states in removing restrictions to prevent a flood of new cases being brought in from out-of-state residents.
“We have got to get this right,” he said. “We are living in a time where the new reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. Until we have a vaccine or a treatment, things are going to be different.”
As of Monday, Wyoming’s coronavirus case count stood at 317, an increase of 12 over Friday afternoon’s total
The number of recoveries, meanwhile, increased by 31 over the weekend to total 237, on Monday afternoon, meaning almost 75% of those diagnosed with coronavirus since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming have made a full recovery.
As of Monday afternoon, Laramie County had 73 cases; Teton County had 62; Fremont County had 51; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 13; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson County had 11; Sweetwater had 10; Converse had nine; Albany and Uinta had six; Lincoln and Washakie had five; Carbon and Crook had four, and Goshen had three. Big Horn, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette all had one case.
Platte and Weston counties remained free of any confirmed cases.
In other developments:
Legislative tasks: Legislative leaders, during their 11-hour meeting last week, assigned a series of studies to committees, some of which may be taken up during a special legislative session later this year. Among the issues to be studied are the state’s telehealth, telework and broadband internet capabilities; funding for highway maintenance; finding new revenue sources for the state; adjusting the public education funding system and how to spend more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid.
Party punishment: Casper officials are trying to determine what they can do about a health care worker who attended several house parties in Casper before receiving a positive outcome on a coronavirus test. While the state has prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, private homes are exempt from the order. Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen said as a result, it is unlikely he could charge party attendees for violating a public health order.
Hospital problems: Campbell County Health in Gillette is being forced to cut its expenses because of financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Like other hospitals, Campbell County Health has stopped elective surgeries, outpatient radiology and other services and has seen a significant drop in patient visits. Hospital executives will take pay cuts, some employees will be put on temporary furlough and there will be a freeze on capital expenditures.
In Teton County, St. John’s Hospital officials estimate the hospital is losing about $6 million a month because of the halt in elective procedures. “If nothing changes within the next eight to none months, St. John’s will be fiscally insolvent,” said hospital CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre.
Enforcing orders: The Wind River Tribal Court has ruled that people violating the Wind River Indian Reservation’s “stay-at-home” order could be fined $150 or sentenced to 30 days in jail. The court ruled the stay-at-home order adopted by the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council was adopted appropriately to protect the health and welfare of reservation residents and as such can be enforced.
Classrooms closed: Green River schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year and students will continue to receive education online, officials have announced. Officials said given the continued uncertainty over when the state may lift its order closing schools, it made sense to keep classrooms closed. “Uncertainty around a decision about the end of the school year seems to be creating more stress than simply making the decision and allowing parents, teachers and students to plan for it,” said Steve Core, chairman of the board of directors for Sweetwater County School District No. 2.
Making masks: Employees at Rawlins’ Carbon County Higher Education Center have joined the legions making face masks or shields for Wyoming’s health care workers. Using the CCHEC’s 3D printers, Gary Chapman, an instructor, and other employees have been making face shields to donate to Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, the Carbon County Coroner’s office, the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department and the staff at the pharmacy at Rawlins’ Walmart.
Mobile internet: Glenrock school officials are putting the internet on wheels to make sure its students have the access they need to continue their studies while schools are closed. The district plans to fit several school buses with Wi-Fi equipment and then park the buses around clusters of homes so students can tap into the internet. School officials also hope to distribute internet “hot spots,” devices that beam internet service over a cellular signal, to families of students.
Poop project: Sewage from Teton County is being sent to MIT for use in a study to determine whether coronavirus can be tracked by studying wastewater system influent. Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton County’s health officer, said researchers hope to be able to track the levels of coronavirus in waste to see if spikes in infections can be detected. “We’re currently sending our poop to MIT,” Riddell said.