Governor Gordon unveils plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions
April 23, 2020
State to begin process to ease restrictions next week
Compiled from Wyoming News Exchange newspapers
State officials will begin moving next week to ease the restrictions on businesses and gatherings that were put into place in March, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Thursday.
Gordon, in a news release, said the state will take a phased approach to removing the state public health orders that were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“This will be a balanced approach that will be driven by two guiding principles — public safety and helping more people get back to work,” he said. “We are going to relax some of the restrictions while also detailing what data we will monitor to make sure we stay on the right path.”
State officials issued public health orders closing schools, businesses that attract more than 10 people, such as movie theaters and restaurants, and businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors. Another order prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.
Those orders are set to expire on April 30, but Gordon said before that happens, modified orders will be issued next week. County health officials will be able to ask for county-wide variances from those orders if conditions merit the move, Gordon said.
The state will base its decision on whether to approve the requests on six metrics, Gordon said, including how many new cases have been diagnosed, the percent of cases attributed to community spread, the percent of coronavirus tests that are positive, total hospital admissions for coronavirus, available hospital beds and available space in intensive care units.
If after relaxing the restrictions, those metrics change for the worse, the restrictions will be put back in place.
Gordon said next week, he will provide details on the easing of restrictions including guidelines for modifying business operations and directions to hospitals for resuming elective surgeries.
The announcement came a day after the state announced that an older Teton County man died as a result of the coronavirus, bringing to seven the number of Wyoming residents whose deaths have been linked to the illness.
The Wyoming Department of Health said the man had been hospitalized in another state after being diagnosed with coronavirus. It added he suffered from existing health conditions that put him at a higher risk for complications from coronavirus.
Statewide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by six on Thursday to total 332.
The Health Department, in its daily coronavirus update, said new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Fremont, Laramie and Natrona counties.
As of Thursday afternoon, Laramie County had 81 cases; Teton County had 63; Fremont County had 53; Natrona County had 39; Campbell County had 14; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson County had 11; Sweetwater and Converse had 10; Albany, Lincoln and Uinta had six; Washakie had five; Carbon and Crook had four, and Goshen had three. Big Horn, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette all had one case.
The number of probable cases, people who have not been confirmed with coronavirus but who have exhibited symptoms and have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, was set at 121.
Meanwhile, the total of confirmed and “probable” recoveries increased by four on Thursday to total 279 — 203 confirmed by laboratories and 76 “probable” recoveries.
In other developments:
Hospital aid: Wyoming has received more than $2 million from the federal government to help small hospitals battle coronavirus. The state is expected to receive more money once $10 billion in assistance to rural hospitals across the country approved by Congress begins to be distributed. Eric Boley, head of the Wyoming Hospital Association, said while the assistance will help Wyoming’s rural hospitals, it will not solve all their problems, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus. “It’ll help, but realistically, it’s still not nearly enough,” he said.
Yellowstone opening: Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said park officials still do not know when the park might open for the season. “When restrictions start lifting, we can start asking when communities are ready to have an influx of transient visitors,” he said. “One thing we don’t want to do is get overwhelmed and pull it back.” Sholly said the park will probably open its services gradually when it does reopen. The park had originally been scheduled to open its east entrance near Cody on May 1.
Hiring freeze: The University of Wyoming has instituted a hiring freeze in the face of Gov. Mark Gordon’s call to department heads across the state to prepare for spending cuts. Acting university President Neil Theobald announced Wednesday the university has suspended searches for three deans. In addition, no hiring of faculty or staff at the university can be done without Theobald’s written approval.
Open up: Three Campbell County residents have asked the county’s commissioners to reopen the county’s businesses closed by statewide health orders and to allow people to move about freely. The three, in statements to commissioners, said they believe the social distancing and advising people to stay home may be doing more harm than good and is a violation of constitutional rights. “Taking freedoms away in the name of ‘public health’ is tyrannical, draconian and communist in nature,” wrote Vanda Cathey, a registered nurse and occupational case manager at Campbell County Health.
Machines, no material: Powell and Cody hospitals have received machines that provide the results of COVID-19 test in about 15 minutes. However, the hospitals have only received enough test kits to train machine users. “Right now there’s just enough tests for people to be proficient on using the machine,” said Michelle Petrich, infection prevention and employee health nurse for Powell Valley Healthcare.
Pass or incomplete: Lovell school officials have adopted a “pass/incomplete” grading system to replace traditional letter grades. Trustees for the Big Horn County School District No. 1 joined officials in other counties around the state giving students the option to keep a letter grade if they feel it will help their grade point average or switch to the “pass/incomplete” system. Students receiving an “incomplete” could address the grade this summer or next school year.
Hospital cuts: Weston County Health Services is examining the possibility of cutting some of its hospital staff. Hospital CEO Maureen Cadwell said because of declines in business caused by the coronavirus, hospital officials do not believe there will be enough money to continue at current funding levels. “We can’t continue to operate at the staff level we have now,” she said. “We have to look at what we can do to reduce expenses immediately.”
Memories: The Wyoming State Archives and State Museum, the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center and the Wyoming State Historical Society are all encouraging Wyoming residents to keep records of how they have dealt with COVID-19. The groups are asking for copies of journals or blogs kept by residents during the pandemic, photos of empty streets or teddy bears in windows or even masks or signs made by people. The organizations will use the materials for various displays and projects.
Graduation banners: Worland officials have approved a plan to hang banners carrying the photos of graduating Worland High School seniors on light poles in the city’s downtown area. The town’s council also approved a senior class parade on May 17 if an actual graduation ceremony cannot be held because of coronavirus restrictions.
Virtual commencement: Northwest College will host a “virtual commencement” ceremony in the place of its traditional spring commencement ceremony. The college’s commencement had been scheduled for May 9, but was canceled because of concerns about large gatherings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a virtual commencement ceremony will be broadcast live on May 15. Graduating seniors will be able to join through an online video conferencing program and family and friends will be able to watch the ceremony on Northwest’s website.
You can view the state-wide metrics here: https://www.wyodaily.com/home/customer_files/legals/covid19_metrics_04232020.pdf