Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday that the closures and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Wyoming have been extended for an additional two weeks — now running through …
Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday that the closures and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Wyoming have been extended for an additional two weeks — now running through April 17.
“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,” Gordon said in a statement. “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.”
The state’s public health orders have closed schools, gyms, theaters, museums, bars, gyms, coffee shops, many child care facilities and some personal services businesses, like hair salons, while prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people in a single room or confined space. Food establishments can continue to provide take out and delivery services.
Park County has its own public health order in place. The county’s order was issued shortly before the state’s and, in some situations, is more restrictive. For instance, the state order says it’s OK for businesses to have more than 10 employees on site as long as they’re generally 6 feet apart. However, Park County businesses “may only have 10 people at one location at a time,” unless they’re specifically exempted from the order, County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin has said. Additionally, the county has placed tighter limits on day cares. While both orders allow day cares to remain open if they’re serving the children of “essential personnel,” Park County has defined essential personnel more narrowly.
In a Friday night email, Billin said the county’s more restrictive rules — which were signed off on by state officials — take precedence, “because the state realizes that the situation differs from county to county, and the response is best tailored by local officials.”
“We believe these things are working in Park County,” he added.
The county’s 14-day order is set to run until April 3, but it, too, could potentially be extended. Billin said Tuesday that “this is not going to be over in two weeks,” though he said Friday that “it is [too] early to tell if the County Public Health Order needs to be extended.”
Meanwhile, on Sunday, President Donald Trump encouraged Americans to practice a similar list of guidelines — including to practice good hygiene, work from home when possible and avoiding discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits — through the end of April.
“We don’t want to do well and then end [the guidelines] a little bit early and have it start going up again, because that would be a disaster,” Trump explained at a Sunday press briefing.
While most people infected with the disease suffer mild or moderate symptoms and recover on their own, as many as one out of every five patients confirmed to have had the disease wind up being hospitalized, health officials have said, and it can be fatal in rarer cases.
On Sunday, President Trump cited models suggesting that 1.6 to 2.2 million Americans could have died from the disease if no precautions were taken — “and that’s not acceptable,” he said. With mitigation, the U.S. could see anywhere between 80,000 and 200,000 deaths from the disease, said Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 159,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country and more than 2,900 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, there were 94 confirmed cases in Wyoming among some 1,934 completed tests. There have been no deaths in the state attributed to the disease, with 24 patients documented as having recovered.
Washakie County had its first positive test on Thursday, with the virus found in a Worland resident hospitalized at Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital, the Northern Wyoming News reported. Park County has also had one confirmed case: a worker at Cody Regional Health who tested positive on March 17.
However, Dr. Billin has repeatedly warned that there are likely additional cases in the area that have not been detected. People with COVID-19-like symptoms — including a fever, cough and shortness of breath — are generally being directed to stay home and are not being tested.
“Individuals who are ill and do not need to be admitted to the hospital don’t necessarily need to be tested,” Billin said. “They need to stay home and avoid sharing with others whatever virus they have.”
As of Monday morning, 123 samples from Park County had been tested, with 16 samples awaiting results.
In Friday’s news release from the governor’s office, State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said extending the current health orders was necessary because it takes time for social distancing measures to effectively slow the spread of COVID-19 and to monitor the impacts of those measures on the outbreak in Wyoming.
It’s thought that the new coronavirus can take two to 14 days to incubate and people can spread the disease before they exhibit any symptoms. COVID-19 produces only mild or moderate symptoms in most people — but it can lead to hospitalizations and, in rarer cases, prove deadly. Much of the urgency behind public health officials’ efforts to slow the spread of the virus is concern that if it spreads too quickly, hospitals will be overwhelmed.
“The best tool we have to reduce the potential burden on our healthcare 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.”
Gordon had issued a public plea on Wednesday for residents to stay home when possible. Friday’s release said he’s “prepared to issue updated guidance — including further statewide orders — should conditions warrant.”