This opinion piece was written and submitted by Mike Moser, Executive Director, Wyoming State Liquor Association and Chris Brown, Executive Director, Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association.
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In June, we penned an editorial asking Wyomingites to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so that Wyoming businesses can remain open. Although many sectors of the economy have been negatively affected by the pandemic, some of the businesses we are honored to represent… restaurants, bars, lodging, and clubs… have taken among the worst of the economic damage.
There is only one way to avoid additional restrictions in Wyoming. Start voluntarily. If you don’t want to wear face masks and practice social distancing for yourself, do it for others. Although we have a number of counties that mandate mask usage, compliance with those health orders is often spotty at best. We do not want to force elected officials and health professionals to take additional action, but our carelessness may force their hand, at either a county or statewide level.
We had anticipated five months ago the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19. We were wrong. This isn’t a wave, it’s a tsunami. And that tsunami threatens to engulf many of those businesses that have managed to survive thus far as well as the well-being, and lives, of our fellow Wyomingites.
Wyoming has thus far been fortunate by having some of the fewest restrictions in the country. To put that in perspective, 35 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, currently require people to wear face coverings in public statewide, according to a list maintained by AARP. Utah and North Dakota joined the list in recent days, and more are sure to follow.
Although we have fewer restrictions than the significant majority of states, the negative impact on Wyoming businesses and our employees is greater due to the high percentage of small businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry. Many of those businesses that are holding on by a thread, and will not survive another shut down. Although we understand the possibility of further restrictions in this COVID-19 tsunami, we don’t want to see it happen.
Perhaps you are one of those folks who feel masks and social distancing are unnecessary. That, we suppose, is your right. But we represent industries whose employees have been taking those precautions for months now, including wearing face masks every shift. We want to keep our businesses, and our employees want to keep their jobs. Please help them do that.
Follow the safety guidelines for the wait staff that needs that job to keep food on the table for their kids. For the clubs, which includes veteran’s organizations, who are struggling to keep the lights on. For the bar or restaurant owner that sees the spike in COVID-19 cases and knows that they can’t make it through another shutdown.
In closing, we thank you for your business. Whether it’s takeout, a socially distanced restaurant meal, a beer with friends, we deeply appreciate Wyoming’s support for our small businesses. Just one major thing. Face masks and social distancing aren’t nearly as oppressive as businesses closing and employees losing jobs. We’re looking toward the finish line, when a widespread vaccine will come available.
But for now… Please help us stay in business.