CHEYENNE — Governor Mark Gordon said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon that face coverings will play an important role in keeping Wyoming’s economy and schools open amid the ongoing COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
“Make sure that you put [face coverings] on as you feel comfortable and as you can, because these are the things that are going to keep us open and they’re going to keep us moving forward,” Governor Gordon said.
Wyoming saw 64 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, which Governor Gordon said is the highest daily number the state has seen thus far. Additionally, a Uinta County man’s death was determined to be Coronavirus-related on Tuesday, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
With 521 active cases state-wide as of Tuesday, Governor Gordon said Wyoming has seen a large increase from two weeks ago, which was under 300 active cases.
“We are up substantially from where we were two weeks ago,” he said.
The state also currently has 50 COVID-19 hospitalizations, which Governor Gordon said is concerning as the state needs to ensure there will be availability at hospitals for every day needs and emergencies.
“We see these cases sort of bouncing up, it’s sad that we have another death today. It kind of confirms this is a virus that has to be taken seriously,” Governor Gordon said.
Due to the uptick in cases and the number of hospitalizations, Governor Gordon extended the current public health orders through August 15. The orders were set to expire on July 31 before Gordon extended them Tuesday.
“Responsible Behaviors” Will Keep Schools Open
Governor Gordon said Wyoming school districts have been finalizing their Smart Start reopening plans, and he thanked the district employees who have been working to put those plans together. He said it is his hope that families and students will feel safe at school.
Gordon said the state wants to make sure schools can stay open, though the plans are designed to accommodate distance learning in case of an outbreak. The Smart Start plans have been designed by each district, as “one size fits all doesn’t work” when there are districts of all sizes in different communities, he said.
To keep schools open, Governor Gordon said “responsible behaviors” will need to be exhibited from the start. This includes hand washing, keeping social distancing of six to eight feet when possible and the utilization of face coverings.
Governor Gordon said of the $300 million of CARES Act funding that has been distributed throughout the state, $51 million has gone to K-12 schools. While $42 million has gone toward technology for distance learning, $9 million has gone toward personal protective equipment (PPE).
Other CARES Act distributions include $100 million toward business aid relief, $26 million for the University of Wyoming’s reopening plan, $40 million toward COVID-19 testing expansion, and $35 million has gone to counties and towns to increase contact tracing and purchase PPE.
“Right now there’s a rush on getting as much money out the doors as possible,” Governor Gordon said.
Critical Time for Wyoming’s Economy
Governor Gordon said the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) report will be coming out soon, based off of May’s revenues, which he described as a “dismal” month. However, he said the CREG report shows improvements.
“While it’s improved… we also face significant challenges moving forward,” Governor Gordon said.
The report indicates an uptick in sales tax revenue, and he said Wyoming should be proud of being able to keep businesses open for the most part.
“We are approaching an absolutely critical time for out state’s economy,” he said.
Moving forward, he said if Wyoming residents wants to continue to keep businesses and the economy moving forward, they will practice responsible behaviors and take COVID-19 seriously.
“If you’re just dead set on taking down Wyoming’s economy, don’t wear one of these (face coverings),” he said while gesturing to his mask.
Governor Gordon assured residents that the state will not issue a mask order in the public health orders. Instead, he said Wyoming will rely on the responsible actions taken by the residents.
“I just want to thank the people of Wyoming for taking this responsibility so seriously,” he said. “We aren’t going to issue a statewide mask order in any of these new orders.”