In a press conference Monday afternoon, Gov. Mark Gordon announced the creation of five task forces to manage and mitigate the impacts of the novel coronavirus on the health of both the state’s residents and its economy.
The task forces will be headed up by Wyoming’s five top elected officials: Gordon’s group will be focused on health care; Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s will focus on state services and operations; Auditor Kristi Racines’ will tackle banking and business; Treasurer Curt Meier will take care of transportation and infrastructure; and Superintendent Jilian Barlow will head up the group focused on education.
The purpose of the task forces, according to Gordon, is “not only ascertaining the threats that we see to the virus and the business communities but to begin laying the groundwork for coming out of what will be a very serious period of curtailment of business activity which will have an effect on our economy.
Eleven Wyomingites have so far tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer, said that at the time of the news conference, the state lab had processed 45 samples, and she knew of nine other samples that had tested negative at private laboratories. She said the state lab has more than 100 samples either waiting for processing or on the way.
The lab is working to increase its testing capacity from 10 samples a day to somewhere between 20 and 50.
In response to a question about comments from President Trump earlier in the day advising state governors to work toward obtaining their own ventilators and medical supplies, Gordon said that Wyoming had ventilators ready to deploy, but expressed more doubt about having the sufficient personnel to operate them.
In the state’s schools, Gordon said he would be asking the superintendent to formulate a strategy to ensure that educational needs are met and students are able to graduate.
Gordon took multiple opportunities during the half-hour conference to highlight the importance of supporting the state economically while also keeping its residents safe. He spoke about the importance of supporting Wyoming’s small businesses and securing its banking sector, as stock prices tumble.
“It is not about closing everything,” he said. “It is about doing things in creative ways to maintain services and connections among people. It is important as a state and a region that we begin to think about how we re-emerge to a more stable state of affairs.”
Gordon also urged state residents to stop hoarding supplies.
“I want to assure you that grocery stores are adjusting their supply chains,” Gordon said. “I strongly urge folks to buy only what they need and be reasonable and considerate to your fellow citizens.
The governor asked Wyoming residents to continue to follow the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for slowing the spread of the virus, including avoiding crowds and unnecessary travel, washing hands frequently, and covering coughs and sneezes.