Businesses adjust to life with COVID-19
April 2, 2020
By GEORGE HORVATH
WORLAND – As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues and statewide orders on gatherings and businesses extended, everyday life in Wyoming has changed.
Last Friday, Governor Mark Gordon and state Health Officer Alexia Harrist extended three existing state public health orders until April 17. Washakie County Commission Chairman Fred Frandson reported that they have also extended the county’s Level 3 status until April 17, limiting county operations and restricting public access to county facilities. The City of Worland has matched the county’s Level 3 stipulations, closing the city offices to the public.
The hope with these measures is to slow the spread of COVID-19 transmission, which state and local public health officials believe to be moving through Wyoming communities.
COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, specifically between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
IMPACT ON BUSINESS
Many businesses providing essential services – grocery stores, hardware stores, gas stations and other businesses – remain open, if they can maintain adequate social distancing among customers and staff. Many other businesses are closed, or must do things differently from their usual ways.
The long-term economic impact of closing whole sectors of Wyoming business and causing other sectors to drastically modify their operations remains to be seen. Even in businesses maintaining normal operating procedures, the long-term impact is unclear. Paradoxically, perhaps, some Worland businesses are doing all right, at least for now.
At Bomgaars farm and ranch supply store, manager Jeremy White said he has not noticed much difference in customer traffic. “We’re not seeing a big change in business,” White said. “Ranchers are needing to ranch, and farmers are going to have to get their fields ready. We’re just here to take care of all those people and their needs.”
Bomgaars have marked social distancing areas around check-out lines to help customers maintain the social distance guidelines of six feet.
Bloedorn Lumber manager Marco Ortega was a bit surprised that business was robust. “Sales have increased, to be honest with you,” Orega said. “I think a lot of people, because they’re off of work, they’re actually coming in and doing projects. People are coming in and buying lumber, drywall, and just getting a little bit ahead of their home projects right now.”
At the Outdoorsman outdoor equipment store, owner Ray Witt said that although he is concerned for what the future may bring, business is currently strong. “We’re seeing steady business, with the upside in handguns and ammo for sure,” Witt said.
Kathy Mercado of King’s Carpet said while she anticipated that business would be impacted by COVID-19, she was still optimistic that customers would continue their home improvement efforts – if they could do so safely. She explained that customers could make appointments for private shopping sessions, if they wished. “Our vendors have good stock of inventory,” Mercado said. “However, we have started to experience delays in shipping.”
As for restaurants and bars, the majority in Washakie County have been offering delivery or curbside take-out options. A few restaurants, Martinez Mexican and Stogie Joe’s are closed at this time.
Other businesses closed per the statewide orders are all personal services including nail and hair salons, Washakie Museum, Worland Aquatic Center, Hurricane Lanes and Washakie Twin Cinemas. The Worland Community Center is also closed.
The three statewide public health orders require “social distancing” and the closure of many kinds of public places. The orders ask the public to maintain at least six feet of distance between individuals. Ten or more persons may not gather in a single room or confined space, including confined spaces that are outdoors. High school, junior college and university sporting events were among the first to face cancellations due to new social distancing requirements.
Schools at every level of education are closed, at least for classes that meet in person – classes may continue online, in a “distance learning” mode. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops and other such businesses may not serve sit-down customers, but they can still serve customers by means of take-out or delivery.
Many businesses that offer personal services – manicurists, hair salons, tattoo parlors and the like – are also closed.
Gordon and Harrist held a press conference on Friday, March 27. “I have extended these orders in consultation with Dr. Harrist,” Gordon said. “Because we’ve seen cases identified in additional counties and growth in the case numbers, it’s clear how important it is for us to take sustained action. I understand the ongoing strain that these measures are having on businesses, workers and Wyoming communities. But it is imperative that our citizens respond to this public health crisis by staying home whenever possible and practicing proper social distancing when they must go out. This is how we can save lives and protect people’s health.”
Harrist emphasized that the extension of current orders was necessary because social distancing measures may take some time to have an impact on COVID-19 transmission.
“The best tool we have to reduce the potential burden on our health care system and save lives is for all of us to limit our contact with other people as much as possible,” Dr. Harrist said. “Of course, it is most important for people who are ill to stay home unless they need medical attention.”