New public health orders effective Friday allow gyms, barber shops, hair salons and other personal care services to reopen under specific operating conditions designed to minimize public health risk from COVID-19.
Another part of this phase allows some additional localized approaches to further easing restrictions based on local expertise and health data.
County leaders plan to request a variance to allow outdoor seating at restaurants within the county.
Gov. Mark Gordon announced the new orders at a Tuesday press conference.
Other parts of the statewide phased approach involve easing restrictions on day cares and issuing guidance to hospitals, allowing them to resume elective surgeries.
“These new orders start our process of getting this part of Wyoming’s economy up and running again,” Gordon said. “We have asked Wyoming citizens to make sacrifices over the past five weeks and they have responded. I want to thank these businesses for playing such an important role in our initial battle with COVID-19. Easing the restrictions on these businesses at this time is prudent and gets us one step closer to a return to normal.”
At another press conference Wednesday, Gordon announced the 14-day quarantine order for visitors to the state would run through May 8, while Wyoming residents would be allowed to camp in state parks beginning May 15.
Darin Westby, head of state parks and historic sites, said at a Thursday conference camping would be by reservation only and not all sites would be available to ensure proper social distancing.
Game and Fish director Brian Nesvik said short-term out-of-state fishing licenses will be made available once the 14-day out-of-state visitor quarantine rule ends May 8.
“We all recognize that the virus has had severe impacts in some Wyoming communities, while other towns and counties have been spared,” Gordon said. “This plan takes into account the continued safety of our citizens and establishes a process to consider some case-by-case exceptions to state health orders when appropriate. It is important that we do not surrender the ground we have taken and that we extend our gains against this virus.”
All three statewide orders have a provision allowing county health officers to submit requests for countywide variances from those orders if the public health conditions in the county warrant the change.
Park County Commissioner Jake Fulkerson said the commissioners and Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin will meet on Friday to discuss a variance for Park County, which he said may include a provision that allows restaurants to serve customers outside on patios, decks and sidewalks.
Under Gordon’s current orders, customers can only pick up food from restaurants. Restaurants may only allow five people or less inside their facility at a time for these pick up orders.
Fulkerson said the county may also consider changes to rules that currently prohibit group classes at gyms and fitness centers.
Billin said county leaders would look at possible exemptions as needed, but just because Park County has been largely spared as far as confirmed cases doesn’t mean he doesn’t still see issues.
“We also worry about people in other counties seeing Walmart as a good place to shop because Park County is ‘safe,’” he said. “A lot remains to be seen.”
Under modified order Number 1, gyms will be permitted to open on May 1 by adhering to public health guidelines outlined in the new order. These include limits on the number of patrons in the facility, a requirement that staff wear face coverings, and the closure of locker rooms. Gyms are also prohibited from offering one-on-one personal training and group classes. However, Harrist clarified Wednesday that classes could be held outdoors with proper social distancing.
Cody Rec Center staff could open as soon as Monday.
This order is also modified to allow child care centers and home day cares to reopen or continue to operate under specific conditions and precautions. These include limiting groups of people to fewer than 10 per room and implementing screening and cleaning protocols.
Under modified order Number 3, nail and hair salons, barber shops; cosmetology, electrology, and esthetic services; massage therapy services; and tattoo, body art and piercing shops may also open in a limited capacity on May 1 under certain conditions. These include operational requirements limiting the number of patrons, screening of patrons and staff for symptoms of illness or exposure to a person with COVID-19, requiring patrons and staff to wear face coverings and eliminating waiting areas.
Businesses that choose to stay closed are still eligible for assistance from Small Business Administration programs.
The Department of Health has also issued updated guidance to hospitals and health care providers outlining how they can resume elective surgeries. That is effective immediately.
Public health order Number 2 limiting public gatherings to 10 persons or fewer has been extended through May 15. The governor’s directive requiring any individual coming to Wyoming to self-quarantine for 14 days remains in place through April 30. An extension to the directive is currently under review, with a decision expected tomorrow.
The Wyoming Business Council will host a series of webinars beginning Wednesday, to provide information and guidance for businesses eligible for reopening under the new orders. To register, visit wyomingbusiness.org/transition.
Fremont, the county hardest hit by the coronavirus, saw its confirmed case count go up by four to 112.
As of Friday afternoon, Laramie County had 98 cases; Teton County had 65; Natrona had 39; Campbell had 15; Converse had 13; Sheridan had 12; Johnson had 11; Sweetwater had 11; Albany had eight; Lincoln and Uinta had six; Carbon, Crook and Washakie had five; Goshen had three, and Big Horn had two. Hot Springs, Niobrara, Park and Sublette counties each had one case.
The number of recoveries among people with confirmed cases of coronavirus and those suspected of having the illness went up by 14 to total 387. The number includes 281 recoveries among those with laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 104 recoveries among those believed to have a “probable” case.
A probable case is defined as one where a person has not been tested, but has shown signs of the illness and was in contact with someone who had a confirmed case. As of Friday, the number of probable cases in the state was set at 146.
In other developments:
Model change: One of the most prominent computer models predicting the impact of the coronavirus on various states is projecting higher deaths for Wyoming from the virus than it did two weeks ago. The model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts Wyoming will see 166 deaths from the virus, compared to its projection of 34 two weeks ago. The model also predicts the state’s deaths will peak at 12 per day on May 3. So far, seven deaths in Wyoming have been attributed to coronavirus.
School grants: Wyoming schools have received about $32.5 million in federal funding to help its districts offset costs linked to the coronavirus. The money is part of the coronavirus stimulus bill approved by Congress several weeks ago. It is not to be used to offset any existing expenses such as payroll.
Unemployment: Workers in Wyoming have received more than $42 million in unemployment insurance benefits since the coronavirus reached the state, according to the state Department of Workforce Services. The department said most of the money has come from the coronavirus stimulus package approved by Congress. The state has also paid $19.4 million to workers left unemployed because of coronavirus.
Electronic elections: University of Wyoming students are casting their ballots for student body officials via online services. With the UW campus closed, students are casting votes for student body president, vice president and senators through a page on the university’s website. Voting continues through Wednesday.
Stadium graduation: Evanston High School has started making plans for an alternative graduation ceremony that will involve a football stadium and cars. Graduation will be held at Evanston’s Kay Fackrell Stadium, where the families of graduating seniors will be able to park their cars and watch the ceremonies.