The pandemic hit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department early, as they attempted business as usual in the spring. Now, as the disease spikes across the state, the agency is attempting to mitigate the …
The pandemic hit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department early, as they attempted business as usual in the spring. Now, as the disease spikes across the state, the agency is attempting to mitigate the spread of the virus the best it can.
“I’ve encouraged our leadership to reduce our presence in offices to the minimum extent possible to be able to keep the doors open,” Brian Nesvik, director of the department, told the Game and Fish Commission on Tuesday.
There are also mandatory mask requirements as employees work in public spaces — and many department employees will be working from home.
“There are more employees teleworking now than at the beginning of the pandemic,” Nesvik said.
In spring, the Lander office was forced shut after employees turned up positive for COVID-19; there are still positive cases within their ranks, Nesvik said. The department had returned as many as 75% of their employees through the summer months as Wyoming saw few infections, but case numbers have since risen.
“We have seen across the state hospital capacities stretched thin right now. Healthcare workers are stretched thin. Our governor has had to ask folks to come in from outside of our state to help augment our health care workers in the state,” Nesvik said. “I think that we all have a responsibility to try to help with that situation and not be a part of the problem.”
Nesvik is aware the state is involved in a heated debate about how to manage the pandemic. Despite many voices around the state questioning the use of masks and social distancing, he is asking employees “to be leaders in their community and model good behavior.”
“We need to keep our doors open and continue to serve our constituents. Wildlife still needs to be managed, we still have calls for service from our public as well as calls for service to take care of wildlife that have some kind of a need. There’s still people on the road. We still have wildlife injured. We still have hunting seasons going on,” he said. “And so there’s still a need for our folks to be out in the field managing and protecting wildlife. We owe it to our state to help reduce the problems that are happening right now with ... the bulging of the capacity of our healthcare system.”
In an effort to do its part, the commission met online only for the first time this year. Using the Zoom meeting format, the meeting carried on with few issues. At one point commissioner Mike Schmid, of La Barge, lost his connection and missed out on a vote, but otherwise the meeting was fairly seamless.
The department is also trying alternative ways to continue to connect with the general public, including recent Facebook Live events. All in masks, Sara DiRienzo interviewed Nesvik and Wildlife Division Chief Rick King in a live event on Monday to talk about late season hunting opportunities and answer participant questions. The video went for more than 40 minutes, far from shortchanging those seeking time with the department’s top officials.
The trio addressed issues like preference point creep, Colorado’s gray wolf program and winter elk feeding grounds. Another live event is planned for December.
The commission’s November meeting had been scheduled to be held in Buffalo on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the body will be virtual meetings only until further notice.
The commission does hope to meet in Cody March 16-17, barring lockdowns running into 2021. “Green beer sounds good to me,” Schmid said at the announcement of a meeting on St. Patrick’s Day.