No Statewide Mask Mandate Yet; More Restrictive Changes Coming

No Statewide Mask Mandate Yet; More Restrictive Changes Coming

Governor Mark Gordon addressed the state on Friday, November 13 with his "concerns" over the COVID-19 pandemic in Wyoming.

CHEYENNE — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced during a press conference Friday that he and the State of Wyoming are exploring a “suite” of options to respond to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and residents should expect changes soon.

“If I can’t rely on you, we’re going to have to do something else,” Governor Gordon said.

A mask mandate is one of the many options the state is considering, according to Governor Gordon. Though a mask mandate is on the table, Governor Gordon said they are still focusing on other factors such as physical distancing, washing hands, and not going to work when sick.

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He added that the state is listening to the White House throughout their decision making.

“The White House says we have 18 counties that are in a critical status, and I will also point out that the White House urges the use of masks,” he said.

Public Health Orders have been adjusted in two-week increments thus far, however, Gordon said they may have to be changed on a more frequent basis with the rates of new cases and hospitalizations the state is seeing. He is extending the current health order by one week as they decide the next steps.

Governor Gordon said hospitals are being overwhelmed statewide, and that neighboring states have started closing their hospitals to out-of-state patients. With Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Montana experiencing similar strain on their hospitals, and with South Dakota sending their patients to Wyoming, Governor Gordon said, “that’s a problem for Wyoming”.

“Thank you to our frontline workers,” Governor Gordon added. “They are responding to the knuckleheads that are out there thinking that this is not an issue. It is an issue, and if you’re thinking it won’t be problematic for the hospitals, think again.”

Earlier this week, Governor Gordon designated $10 million of CARES Act funding to bring additional medical personnel to Wyoming, however, he pointed out that these workers are not as familiar with the issues our hospitals are facing.

“The ICU staff who are coming in are not as trained on what’s going on in that particular hospital,” Governor Gordon said.

Counties Ask for Stricter Action

Earlier this week, public health officers from each Wyoming county put pressure on the governor to put a mask mandate into effect through a letter asking for action.

“Our capacities are overwhelmed. It’s time that Wyoming woke up and got serious about what it’s doing. It’s why I’m getting letters every day, ‘what are you going to do, Governor?’ We’ve relied on people to be responsible and they’re being irresponsible,” Governor Gordon said.

According to Gordon, the public health officials are projecting that the state is on track to record 3,000 new cases per day with two percent of those cases having to be hospitalized.

“All of this spells trouble for our citizens,” Gordon said.

Whereas earlier in the pandemic when sources of breakouts could be identified, Mike Ceballos, Director of the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), said COVID-19 is now everywhere, and it has become much more difficult to identify that starting source.

That’s the problem with our contact tracing. We don’t know where it is coming from. It is literally everywhere.

Mike Ceballos, WDH Director

Ceballos said he spoke to public health officers in Sweetwater County this morning and that they reported that they are seeing COVID-19 spread and are not seeing the amount of mask usage county-wide that they would like.

“But with their strict guidance of masking in their facility, they haven’t had one case in their facility that has happened in terms of transfer from their patients to them,” Ceballos said.

In addition to healthcare workers and officials asking for stricter action, local industry is also concerned about being able to keep up production with a compromised workforce.

Governor Gordon said he recently received a letter from trona miners in Southwest Wyoming expressing their concern with operating with the same number of shifts.

“We Need To Step Up”

Governor Gordon pointed out that Wyoming is now fifth, and depending on the source, third in the nation for the biggest increase in new COVID-19 cases.

“Do you feel better today about what is going on in this state than you did in June or July?” Governor Gordon asked Wyoming residents.

He added that during the spring and summer months, Wyoming was a safe place to be. However, now Wyomingites are going to Colorado to do their shopping and outings more often than before.

“It’s safer down in Colorado than it is here in Wyoming,” he said. “How is that for our economy? We need to step up.”

Governor Gordon said he has spoken to several business owners about whether they think they’ll make it through the winter, and said there isn’t a lot of hope. Though the Governor has dedicated $450 million of CARES Act Funding to help small businesses, that money runs out in a little over a month.

There isn’t anything on the horizon next year.

Governor Mark Gordon

The Governor said local officials have his support in issuing their own county-wide mandates.

“From the start, we said there was the opportunity for a variance at a local level,” he said. “They have my support because they know what the conditions are on the ground.”

With the holiday season approaching, Governor Gordon said he wants families to be able to celebrate happily with their loved ones. However, with the current trends, he said there may be a lot of people who will not be here on Christmas.

“My objective is to set our state up to be able to power through this winter, to power through the challenges we see. I want to make sure our families are together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And that we look at 2021 optimistically with a new lease on where we’re headed,” he said.

Watch Governor Mark Gordon’s full press conference below: