Gordon: Expect more public health orders to loosen

GILLETTE – Although there's been a recent statewide surge in active COVID-19 cases in Wyoming, residents can expect “significant changes” and loosening of some of the state’s public health orders put in place to help mitigate the pandemic.

Gov. Mark Gordon said during a Thursday afternoon briefing the orders set to expire Wednesday will likely be extended, but with some noticeable changes.

It should be welcome news for restaurant owners, who can expect to see expanded indoor seating capacity, Gordon said.

Because Wyoming residents have, for the most part, been good about maintaining their social distancing and have been conscious about the spread of COVID-19, Gordon said the Cowboy State remains one of the least impacted by virus-related restrictions.

But he also noted the recent trend of positive cases in Wyoming is on the rise.

In Campbell County, the number of confirmed cases was up to 246 as of Thursday afternoon, an increase of 49 over the past week. 

Statewide, the Wyoming Department of Public Health reports an increase of 432 confirmed cases for that same week, from 3,936 to 4,368. There also was a record number of active cases in the state as of Thursday at 864.

Gordon also had a wry — and partially tongue-in-cheek — observation about how other places around the United States are handling the pandemic.

The governor was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to testify about updating the Endangered Species Act. While there, he noticed the mayor there had issued mandatory quarantine orders for people traveling to Washington from certain states.

“Virtually every state” on the list is a Republican state, Gordon said, including South Dakota and Wyoming.

“Oddly enough, it doesn’t include California, Oregon or New York,” he said, noting all are decidedly Democratic states with much higher COVID-19 transmission rates.

The governor wondered if the mayor was concerned people in Washington, D.C., “were going to catch Republicanism or fiscal responsibility.”

Along with an expected loosening of some public health orders, the state also continues to work as fast as it can to update and implement new visitation guidelines for senior living facilities, said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer.

“I know the burden has been so, so tough,” she said about residents and families severely limited in their visitations for more than six months. “We recognize how important visitation with loved ones is.”

At the same time, it’s also important to not increase the exposure of seniors to the virus.

“The virus can be devastating to our seniors and elderly,” Gordon said, adding he’s concerned those in assisted living not feel “isolated" or "ferreted away.”

The number of new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus over the past two weeks “has increased significantly,” the governor said. “To some degree, that’s not a tremendous surprise.”

With public schools back in session and young people gathering in college towns, more positive tests should be expected as people are out and about more, Gordon said.

Both Harrist and the governor were cautiously optimistic that a month into public K-12 schools reopening, none have had to close or take drastic action because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

That’s not to say the schools haven’t been impacted at all, Harrist said. So far, the state has had reports of about 100 cases related to students and staff at K-12 schools. But so far, those have been traced to community contact outside of the schools.