BUFFALO — Though Wyoming saw its third largest spike in positive coronavirus cases on Saturday, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso does not believe the nation or Wyoming will need to close down again.
"I don't expect another shutdown, I just don't," said Barrasso. "The idea of the shutdown was to be able to be prepared with adequate testing, adequate personal protective equipment and adequate mindset to realize what we need to do. If there's a spike, we have the hospitals, we have the respirators, we've learned the lessons."
According to Barrasso, testing capacity has increased more than tenfold since the outset of the pandemic.
“The entire month of March the United States tested 1 million people," he said. “Now we test over a million people every three days."
Memorial Day program and then traveling to Worland to participate in that city's program.
A physician and co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, Barrasso dispelled many rumors about the severity and seriousness of COVID-19.
"It's more deadly than the flu. Thirty-six thousand people die each year of the flu. We're now over 100,000 with coronavirus," he said. "It's really bad and it's more likely to kill you if you are older, if you have some other underlying medical condition …
There's a whole list of different things that put certain people more at risk. And then you get young people. They could be a carrier not knowing because they don't have any symptoms."
But Barrasso indicated there were actions everyone can take to continue slowing the spread of disease including proper hygiene, washing hands, distancing in groups and wearing masks.
"In Washington where there are lots of new cases every day, I have a mask wherever I go, as do other people," he said. "There's a value in social distancing, hygiene, masks."
Barrasso also stated he has 100% faith in the information provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force.
Barrasso knows Fauci personally. He went to school with Fauci's wife, who was in nursing school at the same time he was in medical school.
Despite his faith in Fauci, Barrasso feels that a president should avoid tunnel vision and listen to many people in order to make informed decisions.
"Should he be listening to the doctors? Yeah. But, there's a lot to this," he said. "So a president has to make his decision on what's overall in the best interest."
Barrasso is also concerned about the unintended consequences of shutting down the United States, especially the impact on a community if a hospital is forced to close. He remains committed to ensuring adequate funding to the nation's rural hospitals that have seen precipitous revenue declines during the coronavirus pandemic.
"That was my focus on this. I didn't want the economic hit to Wyoming and specifically our hospitals. There are a number of different things that we were able to successfully do for rural hospitals and we always want to do more," he said. "The impact has been that the hospitals have been very significantly hurt financially."
Earlier this month, Barrasso and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, introduced the bipartisan Rural Health Relief Act which would ensure that publicly owned rural hospitals can participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created through the CARES Act.
"Everybody in America has been hit one way or another," he said. "In Wyoming we've been hit much stronger, much harder economically than we have from the health side, but it's all related to coronavirus.”