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Wyoming began taking steps toward normalcy this week as some counties won permission to reopen restaurants and churches.

On Tuesday, Johnson County Commissioners voted to request variances to reopen outdoor restaurant dining, indoor dining, bars, religious services and funerals in the county.

The variances, which will be similar to those approved in other counties, including Natrona, Park and Sheridan, would have to be approved by county health officer Dr. Mark Schueler and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist.

State officials approved requests from seven counties for county-wide variances from the public health orders that were imposed in mid-March to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Most of the variances issued were for outdoor dining for restaurants and bars, as seen in Natrona, Park and Sheridan counties. However, indoor dining was allowed in Lincoln and Washakie counties.

In all cases, the request for variances from county health officers contained guidelines for preventing the spread of the illness. Those included limiting tables to six people, keeping tables six feet apart, requiring staff to wear cloth face covers and the full disinfection of the businesses daily.

Niobrara, Platte and Sheridan counties won approval for church services, which required a variance from the state health order limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer. The adopted variances require that household groups stay at least six feet away from each other, that no more people be allowed in a church than can be accommodated with social distancing guidelines and that church leaders and staff use face masks.

In the cases of both restaurants and churches, people interacting with members of the public are to be screened to determine whether they have symptoms of coronavirus or have been in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

State officials also granted a request from Teton County for a variance that would let the county keep its gyms and businesses providing personal services closed until May 11. 

A modification to the state health orders allowed those businesses to open elsewhere on May 1.

As counties around the state made progress in reopening businesses closed by the coronavirus, Wyoming’s confirmed case count increased by eight Tuesday to 452.

The Wyoming Health Department reported new cases in Fremont, Laramie and Lincoln counties.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Fremont County had 131 cases; Laramie County had 108; Teton County had 67; Natrona County had 38; Campbell County had 15; Converse County had 14; Sheridan County had 12; Johnson and Sweetwater counties had 11; Albany had eight; Lincoln had seven; 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.

Platte and Weston counties remain free of any confirmed cases of the illness.

The number of recoveries in both people with laboratory-confirmed cases and those with “probable” cases of coronavirus increased slightly on Tuesday, growing by four to total 409. The number included 291 recoveries among people with laboratory-confirmed cases and 118 among people with “probable” cases, people who have not been tested for coronavirus but have shown symptoms and are known to have been in contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case.

In addition to the 452 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wyoming, the Health Department said the state has 152 unconfirmed “probable” cases.


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