On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Gordon urged Wyoming residents to stay home if at all possible as the state’s coronavirus case count increased to 44.
Gordon, speaking during a news conference, said if residents comply with the restrictions put in place by the state over the last week, there is a better chance that further restrictions can be avoided in the future.
“We are not trying to shut down Wyoming,” he said. “But your voluntary action and discipline will make the difference on whether we can slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to emphasize the orders we put in place are only effective if you take them seriously.”
The state last week limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer and closed businesses likely to draw more than 10 customers, such as bars and fitness clubs. On Tuesday, businesses that provide personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, were ordered closed.
Gordon said the limits were important to protect Wyoming residents and people involved in the health care industry.
“We want to make sure that should this crisis come in greater detail … that we have adequate hospital facilities,” he said. “It’s not just coronavirus that we are worried about this. If our hospitals are filled and somebody breaks a leg, you will not be able to be taken to a hospital.”
The news conference was held shortly after the case count grew to 44, an increase of seven over the last count Tuesday.
The new cases were diagnosed in Albany, Laramie, Teton and Fremont counties.
The one case reported in Albany County was the county’s first. Laramie County’s case count went up by three, while Teton County’s went up by two and Fremont County’s increased by one.
The previous day, Sweetwater County had been alerted to its first coronavirus case.
“We would like for this to be our one and only case, but we are aware this likely will not be the situation,” said Kristy Nielson, chief nursing officer for Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County.
The state’s latest order closing businesses providing personal services took effect Wednesday and applied to any business 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.
Also on Wednesday, Mike Ceballos, director of the state Department of Health, reported the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory’s testing capacity for coronavirus has increased by tenfold since testing began.
As of Wednesday, almost 1,000 tests had been conducted, 758 by the Health Laboratory and 239 by private commercial laboratories.
In other developments:
Park closures: National Park Service officials closed Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks Tuesday in response to requests from health officials in Wyoming and Montana.
“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.
Driver’s licenses: Gordon on Tuesday signed an executive order providing a grace period for people whose driver’s licenses and identification cars may expire while limits are in place on state employees.
The order provides a 90-day grace period for people whose licenses or identification cards expire between March 15 and June 1. It also suspends non-commercial driving tests for 90 days.
UW grading: University of Wyoming officials are to ask the university’s board of trustees to allow students to choose to have their current semester’s courses graded on a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” basis. Officials said the move will ease the transition into remote course delivery. Selecting the option would mean students would not have their grades this semester count toward their cumulative grade point average.
No makeup time: The Department of Education has decided that students in public schools will not have to make up classroom time lost to school closures prior to April 3. Most of the state’s public schools were closed last week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Ammo sales: Jackson gun shops have reported a run on ammunition since the pandemic began. Sgt. Trevor Aitken, a training officer with the Teton County Sheriff’s Department, compared the development to “panic buying” similar to that seen with toilet paper in grocery stores.
No public: Lincoln County Commissioners have blocked members of the public from attending their meetings in person. Commissioners instead have made a conference call telephone line available for those who wish to monitor their meetings remotely.
Air travel: Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport in Rock Springs announced it would move to one flight a day in and out of Rock Springs on April 1. However, the airport will remain open.
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.
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.