Gordon: Public health orders may be relaxed

GILLETTE — Gov. Mark Gordon is hopeful that the state’s COVID-19 public heath orders will relax some next week.

The current collection of orders that, among other things, determines how many people can gather in places and under what conditions are set to expire Tuesday.

While a new set of orders will be in effect after that, recent virus trends are “encouraging,” the governor said during a Wednesday afternoon pandemic update.

“Our state is really doing much better than any of our peers,” Gordon said, adding that the rate of people who are tested being positive has dropped to 1.6%. “This is encouraging news. It’s been trending down since early August.”

He said new health orders haven’t been finalized, but that people shouldn’t expect major changes.

One reason is that it’s only the second week of public school around the state and “there continues to be some uncertainty on how effective our efforts will be in preventing the virus’ spread in (school) buildings.”

It’s too early to see just how safe and effective in-person instruction is, Gordon said. It’s also better to be cautious than overly optimistic.

“We want to have students to be able to continue attending schools in person,” he said.

Another concern is the Labor Day holiday.

Wyoming communities saw spikes in confirmed COVID-19 cases after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, which Gordon said makes him leery to see what the numbers do in a couple of weeks.

“I’m very hopeful we won’t see similar spikes two weeks from now,” he said. “We’re careful about easing our restrictions because we’re trending (positive) all the way. Going backward is losing that high ground and would just be devastating to our businesses and our schools.”

As for those first days of school, some already have reported positive test results, said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer.

“As expected, we have seen cases among students and staff,” she said, adding that because schools and students are following health guidelines, those have been isolated.

She also said the Wyoming Department of Health is working on ways to allow nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have more expanded visitation. Most, including the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center and Primrose Retirement Community in Gillette, haven’t allowed any face-to-face visitation since March. The exception has been for end-of-life situations.

“We know that expanded visitation options are needed,” Harrist said.

Nearly 120,000 tested

As of Wednesday afternoon, the state health department reports nearly 118,000 coronavirus tests have been administered around the state with 3,484 confirmed cases and another 620 identified. Also, 7,416 people who have had contact with a confirmed or probable case have been monitored through contact tracing.

The WDH virus dashboard also has another change in deaths, showing 42. The data now includes all Wyoming residents who have died from the virus regardless of whether they died in the state, Gordon said.