CHEYENNE – Gov. Mark Gordon issued new public health orders Tuesday afternoon that allow certain businesses to reopen under specific conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The modified orders will take effect Friday and extend through May 15.
The orders build off the three existing orders that Wyoming had already implemented.
Counties can submit separate orders to the state for approval that deviate from the state’s orders.
Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department Executive Director Kathy Emmons said the county plans on following the state orders, with some modifications, since Laramie County has the second-highest COVID-19 positive rate per capita in the state.
She said she doesn’t know the details of what those modifications might be at this time, but anticipates more clarity later in the week.
“I believe our actions and the public response to those actions have helped protect our citizens by preventing the disease from overwhelming us,” State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said. “But we need more time to see how this disease may progress overall, and how each of our moves forward will impact Wyoming.”
Under modified public health order No. 1, gyms are going to be allowed to reopen Friday, under certain conditions. This means limiting the number of people in the gym at a time, requiring gym staff to wear face coverings and not allowing people to use the locker rooms, according to the order. Gyms also cannot host one-on-one personal training classes or group classes.
This also includes making sure exercise equipment is at least six feet apart and not allowing more than nine people in any given area of the gym at a time, according to the order. Spas and saunas in the gyms must also remain closed, but people can use the swimming pool at a limit of one per swimming lane.
Modified order No. 1 also deals with child care facilities, which will now be allowed to reopen and offer child care services to nonessential employees. The facilities must still limit people to fewer than 10 people in a room at a time and follow proper cleaning protocols.
Child care facilities also have to screen people and children for symptoms of COVID-19 daily, and people dropping off or picking up children shouldn’t be allowed to enter the facility unless necessary, according to the order.
This order also still requires restaurants, cafes, coffeehouses, food courts and other places offering food to remain closed except for take-out services.
Bars, breweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, clubs and other alcoholic establishments are also still required to remain closed to on-site alcohol consumption. It should be noted that Gordon also recently permitted alcohol to be delivered with food purchases.
Other businesses that are still required to remain closed are movie theaters, concert halls, opera houses and music halls. K-12 schools, colleges, universities and trade schools still cannot host in-person classes prior to May 18.
Modified order No. 3 allows nail and hair salons and barber shops to reopen Friday, as well as those offering cosmetology, electrology, esthetic and massage therapy services. Tattoo, body art and piecing businesses can also reopen.
“Some people will wonder why we are starting with these changes when they do involve close contact between people,” Harrist said. “It is true that you can’t cut someone’s hair from a six-foot distance, but you can take precautions to help keep customers apart to reduce their risk, and to make the interaction between customers and clients more safe. These businesses can also be managed to ensure fewer people are together at one time.”
The businesses allowed to open under order three are required to limit the number of people in their business to no more than nine at a time, screen the customers and staff for COVID-19 symptoms, require customers and staff to wear a face covering and do away with waiting areas.
People can utilize these businesses through appointment only, and all customers must remain at least six feet apart during their appointment, the order stated.
Public health order number two, which prohibits the gathering of 10 or more people, was extended to May 15 without any modifications.
Harrist said any future decisions on this public health order will be based on the data collected after taking one step at a time with easing restrictions. She said she urges caution for large gatherings where people are in close contact because this is a situation where the virus can spread very easily.
Last week, the state launched a COVID-19 dashboard that lists how the pandemic is affecting Wyoming. Officials have assigned one of three values to the metrics: improving, stabilizing or concerning.
As of April 28, these are the ratings:
• New cases – Have there been fewer cases over time? (Currently listed as concerning)
• Percent of cases attributed to community spread – Is the percentage the same or less? (Currently stabilizing)
• Percent of all tests that are positive – Is the percentage the same or less? (Currently stabilizing)
• Total COVID-19 admissions reported by hospitals – Has there been a sustained reduction in total COVID-19 hospitalizations? (Currently stabilizing)
• Total hospital bed availability – Is bed availability in Wyoming hospitals stable? (Currently stabilizing)
• Total ICU bed availability – Is ICU bed availability in Wyoming hospitals stable? (Currently stabilizing)
None of the categories currently fall into the “improving” classification.
Since last week, there has been a spike in cases in Fremont County, with 101 confirmed cases and eight probable novel coronavirus cases, and the statewide total of COVID-19 cases rose Tuesday to 396 positive cases and 140 probable cases. In Laramie County, there were 92 positive cases and 42 probable cases as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Obviously, there’s areas of concern in Fremont County, where, sadly, last week there was a spike,” Gordon said. “That spike, particularly happened on the Wind River Indian Reservation, with the community spread and several of our state counties. We currently have sufficient ICU and ventilator capacity.”
In addition to the modified public health orders, Harrist continued to urge people to use cloth face coverings in public. She said people don’t need to wear face coverings when they’re driving in their car either alone or with household members or when they go for a walk. However, people should wear face coverings when they are in public places, such as a grocery store, where social distancing isn’t always possible.
She said a face covering can be any cloth covering that covers a person’s face or mouth, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guides on its website for how to make these (https://tinyurl.com/cdcclothfacemasks). She said wearing these coverings will help prevent the spread of the virus and allow the state to maintain the current level of restrictions.
“We may be starting on our path forward, so we all need to understand that social distancing remains critical,” Harrist said. “We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and, unfortunately, will be for a while. Remember, this is a new disease, so still almost anyone can get sick with COVID-19, anyone has a chance for serious illness, and anyone who is infected can pass COVID-19 on to others.
“I am hopeful, though, that we are indeed now on a forward path.”