State residents will be allowed to camp at state parks beginning in mid-May as part of the gradual reopening of businesses and services closed in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Gov. Mark Gordon on Wednesday announced that state park campgrounds will open on May 15, but only for state residents.
Gordon noted during his news conference Wednesday that many other states have not opened their state parks, so Wyoming needs to limit the use of its campgrounds to residents to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
He noted that in February, during the early days of the pandemic, traffic to Wyoming’s state parks was equal to what is normally see in June, much of it by out-of-state cars and vehicles.
The state will also allow its public health order requiring out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days to expire on May 8, Gordon announced.
The news conference was Gordon’s second of the week. He has said he will hold a news conference every day to answer questions that may surface in regard to the easing of restrictions that closed some businesses in March to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Gordon announced Tuesday that some of those businesses, such as gyms, hair salons and cosmetologists, would be allowed to open Friday if they follow certain safeguards, such as requiring the use of cloth masks by customers and staff.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 400 on Wednesday, with new cases in five counties raising the total to 404.
The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said new coronavirus cases were detected Wednesday in Albany, Big Horn, Converse, Fremont and Laramie counties.
Fremont, the county hardest hit by the coronavirus, saw its confirmed case count go up to 102.
As of Wednesday, Laramie County had 96 cases; Teton County had 64; Natrona had 39; Campbell had 14; Converse had 13; Sheridan had 12; Johnson had 11; Sweetwater had 10; Albany had eight; Lincoln and Uinta had six; Crook and Washakie had five; Carbon had four; 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 also went up by nine on Wednesday to total 371. The number includes 269 recoveries among those with laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 102 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 Wednesday, the number of probable cases in the state was set at 140.
In other developments:
Rent assistance: Legislative leaders are examining a proposed bill that would provide some assistance to renters who may have lost income during the pandemic. Under the measure being studied by the Legislature’s Management Council, the Wyoming Community Development Authority would use federal money to compensate landlords who may have lost revenue from tenants unable to make their rent payments. If approved by the Management Council, the bill will be considered during a special legislative session expected to be held later this year.
Quarantine: Some homeless people in Riverton are being quarantined on the Wind River Indian Reservation to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Mike Jones, a spokesman for the Fremont County Incident Command team, said investigations of proven coronavirus cases in Riverton led officials to believe homeless people in the community were exposed to the illness. The people are being put in a mobile “man camp” vacated by minerals industry employees who had been working on the reservation.
Teton rules: Teton County will keep its gyms and businesses offering personal services closed at least until May 11. Although state rules will allow businesses offering personal services to open on Friday, Teton County officials have won state approval to keep things closed down a little longer. “We felt that given our push for testing this week and next week, and the work we are doing with the (Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce) on the guidance, we would be prepared — if numbers still look good on the 11th — to not ask for an extension,” said Jodie Pond, Teton County’s health director.
Hospital cuts: Another Wyoming hospital has been forced to cut its staff because of a loss of business caused by coronavirus. Weston County Health Services in Newcastle has announced it will furlough four employees and cut the salaries of other to limit costs. The moves are expected to save the hospital $222,716 a month. Hospitals across the state have seen their revenues decline with an end to elective procedures.
No school: More school districts are deciding to continue teaching their students at home rather than reopen their buildings. Officials with Newcastle, Worland and Ten Sleep schools have announced their school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
Drive-in graduation: Officials with Moorcroft schools have decided the Moorcroft High School graduation on May 17 will take the form of a “drive-in.” Graduates will be asked to sit with their families in their cars in a spot in the school’s parking lot while they listen to graduation comments over the radio. Each graduate will wear a cap and gown and when their name is called, they will exit the car and receive their diploma in front of other graduates.
Mobile Wi-Fi: Greybull school officials are installing Wi-Fi “hotspots” on several buses that can be parked in areas where students are having trouble with internet connectivity. Case Bowe, the technology coordinator for Big Horn County School District No. 3, said the devices will be put in three buses. Each bus will provide internet access to students within 100 yards.
Longmire Days postponed: A celebration of the fictional Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire in Buffalo has been pushed back until August because of coronavirus. Originally scheduled to run July 16-19, Buffalo’s “Longmire Days” has been rescheduled for Aug. 13-16, organizers said. “The safety of event attendees, our local community and the actors who so generously donate their time are first and foremost in our minds, and we feel this additional month will give the event the time that may be necessary for large scale events to be possible, according to the rules set forth by the State of Wyoming,” organizers said in a statement on the event’s website.