This opinion piece was written and submitted by many of Southwest Wyoming’s largest employers: Ciner Wyoming, Genesis Alkali, Solvay Chemical, Tata Chemicals, Simplot, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, Castle Rock Medical Center, Sweetwater County School Districts No. 1 and No. 2, Green River and Rock Springs Chambers of Commerce, Wyoming Machinery, Infinity Power and Controls, Church and Dwight, and Western Wyoming Community College.
As the largest employers in Southwest Wyoming we are growing increasingly alarmed with the steep increase in community spread positive COVID-19 Coronavirus cases. Since October 28, the Sweetwater County positivity rate has spiked from less than 5 percent to over 31 percent, with cases doubling in less than 10 days.
We fully support all efforts to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the community, including the use of masks and physical distancing measures in public situations. These efforts align with many of the steps we have taken at our businesses and facilities here in Sweetwater County and at our facilities all over the world. Because of these efforts, we have been able to more tightly contain the virus and limit its spread, which has helped decrease its impact on our businesses, employees and the communities where we operate.
We understand the difficult decisions we are faced with related to this virus. While we would love to get back to life and business as usual, there is nothing more important than the health and wellbeing of the people in our community. This will also be our fastest path back to more normal times. We still need to continue our dedication to decreasing the impact of this virus and to protect those people providing essential services that are so important right now.
Our businesses, our schools, our first responders, our cites all need our team members to keep operating “as normal”, we can’t do it without you. Many of our operations are facing up to 20 percent of our team, at home, quarantined or worse yet, actually sick with COVID-19.
What keeps all the major employers up at night is protecting our employees, their families and keeping our businesses running; “keeping doors open.” Think about the impact closing schools would have on the community – and our operations – with parents having to stay home or make alternative arrangements and businesses finding themselves short on employees.
The current data is alarming. COVID-19 has impacted our county in the last 19 days. On October 28, there were 480 positive cases in Sweetwater County. On November 5, there were 663 positive cases and by November 16, there were 1,075 positive COVID-19 cases in Sweetwater County. The rise in cases from October 28 to November 16, just 19 days later represents a 124 percent increase. That’s more than double the cases in just 19 days.
If we use these numbers to project what could happen in the next several weeks, we could have 1,333 more cases by December 3, just 19 days from now, and another 1,652 cases by December 21, just 19 days from that. That is if we don’t do anything about these numbers.
Prior to October 28, Sweetwater County had a 5 percent positivity rate. Since October 28, the positivity rate was 25 percent, and since November 5, the positivity rate is 31 percent. These are big numbers and big increases. Right now, in the hospital, we have 6 hospitalized patients and there have been 4 deaths in Sweetwater County in the last 12 days.
If these numbers continue their current trajectory, businesses will slow down or shut down because there will not be enough employees to operate them. We all know what happens when our employers have to slow down.
Good hygiene, social distancing and wearing a mask in public… It’s a small sacrifice to make. It’s worth a shot, because if we don’t do anything, the numbers will keep going up, just like they have over the last 19 days. The positive cases, the hospitalizations, etc… they will just keep increasing. Look at the numbers and realize that if we had a way to slow this down, wouldn’t we at least try? Realistically, the battle isn’t whether or not we should wear masks or social distance, the battle is with COVID. It’s us against COVID and we need to come together so we can battle this together and slow down the spread of COVID.
The data is clear. Just ask family, friends and neighbors across Sweetwater County, Wyoming, and the country who have contracted the virus. One person testing positive often leads to a dozen or more exposures. Subsequent contract tracing, testing, and quarantine stay at home orders places an even greater burden on our businesses, schools and health care facilities. Let’s also stop to consider the potential health complications and financial impact for the individuals.
Masking up equals opening up! Let’s listen to the advice of our public health officials and keep our schools and businesses open and operating. Our communities depend on YOU! We urge residents of Sweetwater and Uinta County to lead the way and demonstrate to the rest of Wyoming that masks – and appropriate social distancing – do prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will flatten the curve.