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Gov. urges caution as businesses open more

CHEYENNE – With some statewide public health orders being eased at the end of the week, Gov. Mark Gordon asked the public Wednesday to be careful as the state’s economy begins to reopen.

The three updated statewide orders, set to take effect Friday, allow some dine-in services at restaurants and bars. But in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Gordon emphasized social distancing and other public health measures will still be in place.

“This is truly an exciting time for Wyoming, but it’s also one that is a cautionary time for Wyoming,” Gordon said. “This is not a ‘hold my beer’ moment.”

Gatherings of more than 25 people in a confined space, rather than 10 as under the previous orders, will be banned, though some exceptions are extended to religious groups and funeral homes that maintain social distancing.

The orders also fall in line with Laramie County’s phased plan to reopen, which allows new restrictions to be implemented if there is a spike in local cases.

Wyoming has reported seven deaths related to COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon. The state also reported 523 lab-confirmed cases of the virus, of which 346 have recovered.

Gordon also announced the appropriation of $15 million to the Wyoming Department of Health to improve its testing capacity.

“The effect of this funding will be to allow us to more quickly identify where the disease is located, prevent large clusters of cases, and avoid future shutdowns and economic impacts,” Gordon said.

The governor also allocated $2 million to be distributed to businesses for personal protective equipment. Both appropriations come from the $1.25 billion Wyoming received through the omnibus federal relief bill that will be the focus of discussion during the state Legislature’s special session Friday and Saturday.

As Wyoming restaurants and businesses prepare their next steps, officials at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks announced plans Wednesday to partially reopen next Monday. Gordon praised the move as a boon to restart Wyoming tourism, though adding the extra traffic makes him anxious.

“It’s what we want to see in terms of an economy awakening, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we are emphasizing safety, with all the things that we’ve talked about right from the start: social distancing, keeping our hands clean, et cetera,” Gordon said.

Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain National Park has announced a phased reopening starting May 27.

With the state set to move ahead with its reopening plan, the governor reiterated its need to do so carefully.

“For those that are saying we should loosen everything and do away with it, they don’t have the responsibility that I do to make sure that our citizens are well taken care of,” Gordon said.

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