Last week, Governor Mark Gordon announced Wyoming will remove its statewide mask requirement and allow bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to resume normal operations on March 16. In addition, limitations on personal gatherings and restrictions on outdoor events will be removed.
Indoor events of more than 500 people may be held at 50% of venue capacity with certain face mask protocols for large indoor events. The 50-person limit in organized sporting events and artistic performances will also be eliminated.
Wyoming has seen a declining number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and has seen significant success rolling out the vaccine, with the state’s most vulnerable residents having access to the vaccine.
“I thank the people of Wyoming for their commitment to keeping one another safe throughout this pandemic. It is through their efforts that we have kept our schools and businesses operating and our economy moving forward,” Gordon said in a press release.
He encouraged Wyoming citizens to take personal responsibility for their actions, and to stay diligent as the state looks forward towards the safe resumption of spring and summer activities. The Governor added that Wyomingites should continue to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and follow the best practices adopted by any business they visit to slow the spread of the virus.
REACTIONS IN CARBON COUNTY
“I think it’s coming a year too late,” said Art Martinez, owner of County 6 Bar and Grill in Rawlins, about the lift on restrictions. He believes that there should have never been a mask mandate in the first place. Martinez said that he doesn’t believe that masks protect people. Further, the restrictions have cost businesses money.
“Our sales have been cut down. I’m hoping things get back to normal soon. We were thriving before all this,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s thoughts were echoed in another restaurant in Rawlins.
“We’re hoping things will get busier. Normally, we get a lot of travelers, but the amount of travelers has been down this year. We’re probably at about half the normal number,” said Valerie Anderson, manager of Buck’s Sports Grill in Rawlins. Anderson said that their business already had been giving guests and staff the option to wear masks, and respecting an individual’s right to choose.
“It’s a huge relief that the restrictions are being lifted,” said Katie Friend, owner of Sweet Katees Cupcake Shop. Friend explained that at her sanitizing and cleanliness routines have always been high priority, and that didn’t change with the COVID-19 restrictions. As the restrictions are lifted, she hopes that people will continue to always practice diligent cleanliness routines. She added that she is concerned about her community’s businesses after the difficult year they have had, and suspects that Wyoming communities are in for a couple of rough years ahead.
“When the restrictions are lifted, I hope people continue to be kind,” Friend said. She acknowledged that there are people who are genuinely fearful and legitimately high risk, and that the community should remember this as businesses and services continue to open up.
“I will respect people’s choices for wearing masks, but I don’t personally wear one,” said Magen Donivan, director of the Rawlins Chamber of Commerce. With the lifting of the mask mandate, she said that people still had the right to wear a mask and socially distance if they are concerned. Donivan said that she does have concerns about the economic impact of the lifted mandate.
“I worry that people who are scared of the virus will limit themselves even more if there are no longer restrictions,” Donivan said, adding that this might lead to a decline in business patronage.
Although the Governor has lifted the statewide mask mandate, some organizations will continue to require them in their buildings and events.
“Although the statewide mask mandate is being lifted, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County (MHCC) and all our clinics and services will still require individuals to wear a mask while in our facilities or while attending any of our events,” said Stephanie Hinkle, marketing, communications and foundation director for MHCC.
Carbon County’s senior centers will also continue to require masks.
“We are keeping our rules that you have to wear your mask, except when eating. We serve high risk populations and our highest priority is keeping them safe,” said Lisa Engstrom, executive director of Carbon County Senior Services. She said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommend masks for group settings whether people are vaccinated or not. Although Engstrom doesn’t know how long they will continue to require masks, she said that everyone at the senior centers is eager to see things get back to normal. In the meantime, she isn’t taking any chances with the healthy and safety of the people they serve.
VACCINATION EFFORTS CONTINUE
Nearly 100,000 first doses have been administered and 19% of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Almost all counties in the state are now entering the 1c phase, which includes restaurant, bar, gym, and theater workers.
“The free, safe and effective vaccines we have available are being administered throughout the state and are helping us get past this pandemic and closer to ‘normal,’” Harrist said. “I encourage everyone to get vaccinated when it is their turn.”