CHEYENNE — During a press conference Friday morning, Gov. Mark Gordon expressed concern and anger over the surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Wyoming. He said there will be changes coming in public health orders, and they will be more restrictive.
The health, business, and civic well being of Wyoming and its residents are all being tested in ways that have not been seen before, Gordon said.
“It’s not letting up, it’s going straight up,” he said.
Coronavirus-related deaths have sharply increased during the past 30 days and are now coming in groups of tens. There has been a sharp rise in hospitalizations, and hospitals in surrounding states have become overwhemed. Hospital staff and health care workers are strained.
At the time of the press conference, Wyoming was fifth in the nation in new COVID-19 infections. The state is under the most strain it has seen since the pandemic began, Gordon said. The White House says that Wyoming has 18 counties that are in critical status.
In light of the surge and the emergency that the state is now in, the governor said he has asked for a one-week extension of current public health orders while changes are considered. Those changes need to be thought through and carefully examined, Gordon said.
There will be changes, and they will be more restrictive, Gordon said.
Data provided by the White House will be used to determine the next steps, according to Gordon. His long-term goal is to make sure businesses survive and schools stay open. He wants people to be engaged and stop arguing in order to figure out a way that Wyoming can come through the crisis in a stronger fashion.
The governor said he has reached out to businesses and chambers of commerce throughout the state in search of ideas about how to decrease rising coronavirus numbers without a shutdown. More businesses have been closed because of illness than any health orders, Gordon said.
During questioning, the governor said that in considering new orders, all things will be on the table, including face masks, which are only part of the solution.
The governor did note that face masks are an important part of the strategy. He said that he did not test positive for COVID-19 even after spending a large portion of one day next to someone who had it. The governor attributed that to the fact that they were both wearing masks at the time.
Since the pandemic started, Gordon said he has tried to figure out how to be as “light” as possible in public health restrictions. Wyoming did a wonderful job all the way to September when cases started to rise, he said.
However, the governor expressed his frustration about how much worse the situation in Wyoming is now compared to the summer.
“We are being knuckleheads about this,” he said.
“It’s time that Wyoming woke up and got serious about what it’s doing,” he added. “It’s time to get serious.”
Governor Gordon said he has been getting letters every day asking what he’s going to do about the situation. Some of those are from businesses asking how the state is going to maintain a healthy workforce.
One of the letters he mentioned receiving was from the trona miners in southwest Wyoming expressing concern about their ability to continue running the same number of shifts.
Wyoming Department of Health director Mike Ceballos addressed the issue of where the rising cases might be coming from. He attributed part of it to gatherings with asymptomatic carriers and get-togethers with friends and families in homes. He said there have been some cases in schools, but the spread there has been minimized due to mask requirements.
Ceballos said he talked to personnel at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. They said that although they are not seeing amount of masking that they would like in the community, due to the strict guidance of masking in their facility, they haven’t had one case of transfer of COVID-19 within the hospital.
When we’re knowledgeable and thoughtful, we’re able to do a better job of controlling it, Ceballos said.