CHEYENNE – Gov. Mark Gordon has extended his closure orders until April 30 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 amid the pandemic.
His previous order was set to expire on April 17, and his new order now mirrors that of the federal recommendations set forth by President Donald Trump. The decision to extend the order in Wyoming was made in conjunction with State Health Officer and Epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist.
The orders include closing public places, including schools, bars, restaurants and more, plus banning gatherings of 10 or more people.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said all school districts in the state have an adapted learning plan for students, and she had personally read every plan and communicated with every superintendent.
She said each plan is unique and won’t feel like “normal school.” She added that her continued guidance is to prioritize public and personal health.
Restaurants can keep providing delivery service, but now all takeout services are required to be curbside. Customers won’t be allowed to enter restaurants anymore, Gordon said.
People coming to Wyoming from out of state are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. If the person is going to be in Wyoming for fewer than 14 days, then they must self-quarantine for the entire visit. This directive is supposed to discourage people from coming to Wyoming during the pandemic.
Gordon reiterated that the purpose of these orders is to save lives, help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect the health care system from being overwhelmed.
“Let me say it again: Stay home. Practice extra hygiene. Practice social distancing by maintaining at least six feet between yourselves. Don't mob stores, or allow your kids to gather up for playdates,” Gordon said.
Gordon said staying home, washing hands, maintaining social distancing and not going to the store unless people have to – all orders he has already issued – is practically a stay-at-home order.
During his 3 p.m. Friday press conference, Gordon threw papers on the table in front of his podium that listed the exemptions to stay-at-home orders that other states have done, such as Colorado.
“If you're waiting for me to issue a shelter-in-place order ... when you have Dr. (Keith) Wheeler, Dr. (Mark) Dowell telling you that you should stay home, and I'm telling you to stay home, what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for, ‘mother may I?’ or are you taking care of yourself and practicing the common sense that we expect?”
Gordon said the decision to extend his orders wasn’t easy, and he hears every day about people losing their homes and who are out of work. But he said extending his orders is the right decision to protect public health.
He said the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to increase throughout the month. Presently, Wyomingites must focus on improving compliance and adherence to the orders, Gordon said.
By doing this, the lives of children, grandparents, health care workers and citizens stay protected. He said issuing a statewide order with large exemptions won’t provide additional public health protections.
At the press conference, Gordon also expressed frustration that the federal government was stepping in and canceling Wyoming’s orders for personal protective equipment, which is contributing to the shortage of these supplies in Wyoming.
Gordon said most of the orders Wyoming has placed have been redirected to areas in the east, such as New York and Louisiana.
“It is very frustrating, extremely frustrating when we have orders that are supposed to be on their way and we find that FEMA, the agency that's supposed to help us, has preempted that order,” he said. “When you're doing this, Mr. President, please remember that you have the opportunity to be able to deliver some of that to Wyoming, to Montana, to North and South Dakota, so that we can get ahead of this. And we aren't playing catchup like the rest of the country.”
Lynn Budd, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security director, said she also finds these actions by the federal government disturbing. She said the office is doing everything it can to try to find innovative solutions, including potentially ordering supplies directly from China.