State officials on Tuesday ordered the closure of non-essential personal service businesses such as hair salons and barbershops as Wyoming’s coronavirus case count climbed to 33.
Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, issued the order, which was to take effect Wednesday and continue through April 3.
“While I understand the impact and sympathize with those most affected by these measures, especially small business owners, I support Dr. Harrist’s recommendation because this is about saving lives,” Gordon said in a news release. “We have tried to navigate a thoughtful course, but as COVID-19 spreads through our communities, we must take this action now.”
The order applies to businesses where social distancing is not practical, including nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, massage parlors and tattoo, body art and piercing shops.
The order does not apply to physical therapy providers.
The state had earlier ordered the closure of all businesses likely to draw more than 10 people and issued an order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.
Gordon had said during a news conference Monday that more restrictions could occur and said he expected the impact of coronavirus in Wyoming to be felt for some time.
“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” he said. “This is going to impact life in Wyoming for a long time to come.”
Gordon said he does not expect to issue a “shelter in place” order for people to remain in their homes in the near future, although he did say further restrictions may be necessary.
“What we’re trying to do is to find a balance that respects private property rights, personal liberties and prudent health standards,” he said. “We can hopefully look to Wyoming being a bellwether state that leads the nation in not having to proceed with shelter in place.”
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming grew to 33 on Tuesday as the state Department of Health announced new cases in Fremont, Laramie and Teton counties.
Two new cases were reported in Fremont County, while one new case was reported in each of Laramie and Teton counties.
However, the increase in case numbers was tempered with the news that five patients have recovered, three in Sheridan County and two in Fremont County. Health officials in each county reported isolation for the patients had ended.
Fremont County continued to be the state’s hardest hit with a COVID-19 case count of 12. The case reported Tuesday brought Laramie County’s total to eight.
Sheridan County had four cases, three were diagnosed in Teton County, two in Carbon and Natrona counties and the Health Department reported there was one case each in Campbell and Park counties.
Meanwhile, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks were closed Tuesday by National Park Service officials in response to requests from officials in Park and Teton counties in Wyoming and their counterparts in the Montana counties of Park and Gallatin.
“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a news release. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”
In other developments:
Fraud warning: U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen warned Wyoming residents to be wary of fraud schemes that have their roots in the coronavirus illness. Klaassen said around the country, a variety of different scams have surfaced.
“It is unfortunate, but criminals often use times of adversity to their advantage,” Klaassen said. “They see moments where our attention is distracted or we are susceptible to emotional responses as an opportunity to commit brazen acts of fraud.”
Scams seen around the country include: Companies and individuals selling fake testing kits, masks and treatments, “phishing” emails sent from entities posing as the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and malicious websites that appear to share coronavirus information but in fact infect computers with malware.
Remote education: Most of the state’s community colleges have decided to keep their campuses closed for the rest of the spring semester and provide education via computer.
Sheridan, Gillette and Casper colleges, along with Northwestern Wyoming College, Laramie County Community College and Western Wyoming Colleges, all announced they will offer classes online.
Eastern Wyoming College, where spring break ended Monday, will provide classes online or through “modified” means, according to the college’s website.
More support: Gordon is among 21 Republican governors to send a letter to congressional leadership seeking additional funding for states in a $2 trillion stimulus package that was still being debated in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday morning.
The spending bill would provide $20 billion to the states to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.
“It’s a start,” Gordon said during his news briefing Monday. “I don’t believe that this will be repaired easily. I think the consequences are very long term and I do believe that we will be back with needs for more direct infusions to the state.”
Hand sanitizer: Gordon directed the Wyoming Business Council to allocate funds to Wyoming distilleries and breweries to help them buy the supplies they need to manufacture hand sanitizer.
“This collaborative effort represents the Wyoming spirit we all know and love,” he said in a news release. “Folks banding together in challenging economic times to support public health and advance the greater good.”
Distilleries that have committed to making sanitizer include Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne, Pine Bluffs Distilling, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby and the Jackson Hole Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson.
Outdoor Expo: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department canceled its annual Outdoor Expo, to be held May 9-11. The department made the decision to minimize the likelihood of contact between people.
Wind River Reservation: The Wind River Inter-Tribal Council asked all Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal members to voluntarily self-isolate. The tribes said residents should leave their homes only for emergencies, to seek medical care or to buy essential goods or services.
Public restrooms: Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forest officials announced the forests’ public restrooms would be closed due to worries about spreading the coronavirus. Some guard stations and rental cabins will also be closed in the coming week.