Many of the Wyoming businesses that were ordered to close last month — gyms, hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and electrology, esthetic and massage therapy services — will be allowed to …
Many of the Wyoming businesses that were ordered to close last month — gyms, hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and electrology, esthetic and massage therapy services — will be allowed to reopen on Friday, if they take some new precautions.
In announcing the decision on Tuesday, Gov. Mark Gordon it’s “high time” to get those businesses back up and going — and that Wyoming is poised to be one of the top states “to lead this nation back to recovery.”
“Our world, our country absolutely has to get back to work,” Gordon said at a news conference. He also disputed the idea that the state economy was ever shut down, saying that, “Wyoming has been working — it will continue to work.”
Some rules for restaurants and day cares will be slightly relaxed as well.
Day care providers — which had been limited to serving only the children of “essential personnel” — will be able to care for any children starting Friday, though under some new rules.
Meanwhile, up to five customers at a time will again be allowed to enter restaurants to pick up takeout orders instead of being limited to curbside service. Park County health officials plan to go further and ask the state to allow outdoor seating at all local restaurants, county health officer Dr. Aaron Billin said Tuesday night.
“Because Park County has done so well, we don’t feel there is any need to be more restrictive than the state orders,” Billin said Wednesday.
Other restrictions continue
Although some restrictions are being eased, the governor announced that others are being extended through May 15. For those additional two weeks, gatherings of more than 10 people will generally remain prohibited and schools, universities and theaters must remain closed.
State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist indicated that health officials remain particularly concerned about big gatherings.
“Having large numbers of people together in one place, having close contact with each other, is unfortunately a very good way to spread this virus,” Harrist said, adding that “we need to be extremely cautious” before easing those rules.
State officials said they’ll be continually tracking data on COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations to determine whether Wyoming can continue taking small steps forward.
“Unfortunately, it is too soon for us to be ready for giant leaps,” Harrist said. “I believe our actions and the public response to those actions have helped protect our citizens by preventing the disease from overwhelming us. But we need more time to see how this disease may progress overall and how each of our moves forward will affect Wyoming.”
Gordon said the state will continue to take “a methodical, measured approach.”
“I recognize that tough decisions have been made that require sacrifice and cause pain, but it is important not to jeopardize the progress we have made,” he said. Getting this wrong, the governor said, would be “devastating.”
Wyoming has had 396 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since last month — including one in Park County — with another 140 probable cases. Of those 536 patients, 362 have recovered, with seven deaths. As of Tuesday, Gordon said 12 people infected with the disease were hospitalized.
“While I wish none of those patients were in hospital, we’re doing pretty well,” he said. However, he also noted a spike in recent cases in Fremont County on the Wind River Indian Reservation — and he noted the hospital situation could change quickly
“... It would only take one cluster of cases in an assisted living facility, for example, to create a surge that could put a strain on any one of our healthcare facilities,” Gordon said.
The governor added that he’s also working with his colleagues in neighboring states to try coordinator efforts when possible.
“We’re trying to manage this in a way so that we can open up, Yellowstone park for example, without imperling their facilities [and] making sure that Cody has a good start to their season,” Gordon said. “We want to make sure down here in [southeast Wyoming] .. that lifting these orders too quickly we don't’ end up with a tremendous horde of people from Colorado, where things are still closed wanting to come up and find another place.”
New rules put in place
When certain establishments reopen on Friday, it will not be business as usual.
For instance, under a few of the state’s new rules for gyms, staffers must wear face coverings “at all times,” equipment must be cleaned after each patron, no more than nine people are allowed in one room at a time (with no more than one person per 120 square feet overall) and group workout classes and close-contact activities (such as weight lifting with spotters) remain prohibited.
As for salons, barber shops and other personal services, the rules include face coverings for workers and “as much as possible” for patrons, cleaning and washing surfaces and hands after each patron and providing services by appointment only.
At day cares, no more than 10 children are allowed in a given room while frequently touched surfaces must be cleaned and sanitized after each use (for things like shared toys) or at least twice a day (for doorknobs and light switches), plus other rules.
All of those businesses must also screen their employees for symptoms of COVID-19 at the beginning of their shifts; anyone with an illness or exposure to a person with the disease in the previous 14 days cannot work.
Additionally, gyms and personal service businesses like salons must keep a record of customer names and contact information, so those people can be reached if there’s a case of COVID-19 tied to the location.
Under the new orders, county health officers can request exemptions for specific businesses or their entire county. The Department of Health has released a document laying out those procedures for health officials and businesses.
The state will be providing daily updates to answer questions that arise about the new rules this week, with Gordon scheduling another briefing at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Also beginning Wednesday, the Wyoming Business Council will host twice-a-day webinars at www.wyomingbusiness.org/transition to tackle questions form businesses.
At Tuesday's news conference, Gordon said he believes Wyoming businesses will take the needed steps to keep people safe as they reopen.
“We have business owners that want to get back to work; they want to do their job,” he said. “They know this is a new environment, they know that this is the way to keep their customers and make their customers happy. And so I’m very optimistic about what this means — it’s kind of taking the foot off the brake.”