It looks like a whole lot of people in Wyoming are fired up about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths here in the Cowboy State.
Gov. Mark Gordon was about as emotional and angry as we have seen him during his Nov. 13 press conference. He referred to a portion of our state’s population as “knuckleheads” for not practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
Meanwhile, in Casper, infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Dowell and various elected officials were hooted off the stage recently by angry citizens when the officials tried to emphasize the dangerous state of health that they felt the people of Wyoming are dealing with right now. It was an ugly scene.
The anti-maskers feel statistics do not bear out the drastic measures being considered by Gordon and state officials. They look to neighboring South Dakota and how Gov. Kristi Noem has kept her state open.
Noem’s detractors claim that South Dakota is now one of the worst states in the country for COVID-19, noting the state is sending patients to Wyoming hospitals.
Gordon and his staff have reached out to business organizations for their input on the situation. Should he impose a mandatory mask mandate? Should he impose the same health restrictions that forced restrictions on businesses seen last spring?
My prediction is that members of these state groups will support a mask mandate, but not a business shutdown. I am writing this on Nov. 15. By the time you are reading this, some of these decisions may have happened.
Meanwhile, my friend Steve Mossbrook died in the Casper hospital one day after his 74th birthday from lung disease complicated by COVID-19. Now that spooks me. Steve was a slim and fit guy. He was a terrific golfer.
He was one of Wyoming’s early internet pioneers, creating Wyoming.com, and I had known him for 30 years. He had been in the hospital for two weeks and kept going downhill. He had been a lifelong smoker, and in recent years had been vaping. His lungs were not healthy. Still, the last time I chatted with him, he was full of energy and anxious to launch some new programs.
Another good friend is Glenn Arbery, 69, president of Wyoming Catholic College. He caught COVID-19 and told me that for the past week, he has had occasional headaches, chills and very low energy. But he is on the mend. He plans to get back to work next week. His case, although not ideal, made me feel a little better.
Longtime Powell Tribune Publisher Dave Bonner, 80, tested positive a few weeks ago after attending a University of Wyoming football game.
“I have completed my public health COVID-19 quarantine and am just easing back into circulation,” he says. He says he has not smoked since college, and that may have contributed to his good result.
During the recent presidential campaign, it seemed like Joe Biden followers all wore masks and stayed out of harm’s way. Donald Trump backers wore baseball hats, no masks and lived a normal life.
On a national level, the whole idea of mail-in ballots totally reflects the Biden-mask ethic, while the walk-in voters on Election Day reflected the Trump ideal. It truly was a visible image of a classic division in our country.
Here in Trump Country, where Wyoming voted 70% for the incumbent (more than any other state), you can understand why there could be so much resistance to mask wearing and a mask mandate.
So, what to do?
Gordon is going to make a decision, and it will be a doozy, either way. If he imposes a mask mandate, who will enforce it? If he doesn’t, has he shirked his responsibility to keep Wyoming folks safe?
Meanwhile, on Sunday morning’s “Meet the Press” show, Biden’s new chief of staff indicated that a four- to six-week national shutdown may be on the table as soon as Biden is sworn in. That, plus a national mask mandate. These folks are serious. A whole bunch of folks out here in Wyoming will rebel. It won’t be pretty.
As the weather turns cold and people huddle indoors, the chances of spreading COVID-19 increases.
Could today’s weather in Wyoming be any different than this summer? We probably hosted 5 million tourists this summer, yet our total numbers of COVID-19 remained super low.
In August, when the state was being overrun by tourists, we had 608 active cases. Today we have 9,897 active cases.
These are difficult times for Wyoming when it comes to COVID-19. Be safe and be careful out there.