April 6, 2020 |
Governor Mark Gordon on Friday extended the public health orders shutting down public life in Wyoming through the end of April. He made the announcement at a news conference.
The pressser began with an angry outburst from the governor, who questioned whether the orders were being taken seriously.
It ended with the public health officer refusing to share information about computer modeling of the COVID-19 in Wyoming, and how the science might justify the damage being done to Main Street economies by the public health orders.
Wyoming is one of nine states not specifically operating under a statewide shelter in place order as a way to checkmate the novel coronavirus.
Gordon has been under pressure from constituents to critics, and even from some in the Wyoming medical community, to fall in line with more liberal states that have issued shelter in place orders.
Frustrated, the governor began Friday’s news conference with an angry tirade.
Sparking the governor’s anger was an article in Friday’s Casper Star Tribune where the Natrona County Public Health officer said he would issue a shelter-in-place order for Casper if the governor did not issue one for the state. Dr. Mark Dowell is the Natrona County public health officer.
Dowell shut down the 3A state basketball tournament last month after some teams already had made the trip to Casper. Hotels had been booked. Restaurants had pre-ordered food to be ready for the influx. School districts had spent money on fuel and bus drivers. Acting on his own, Dowell squelched the tournament without consulting with the governor or the Wyoming Department of Health, state officials said at the time.
On Friday, Gordon defended his decision to avoid a shelter-in-place order. He said states like Colorado have issued so many exemptions to their shelter in place orders that they are almost meaningless. Gordon said a shelter order will not add more protections than are in place now.
Later in the news conference, Gordon apologized for his earlier outburst. He said the comments were directed at some media members and not at Wyoming citizens, who he said were largely abiding by social distancing guidelines.
Gordon said extending the public health orders closing down schools, restaurants and other placing limits on public assembly is meant to save lives.
Just how many lives the order might save, or how many Wyoming residents might avoid infection is unknown.
Dr. Alexia Harrist said computer models have been generated forecasting the spread of the novel coronavirus in Wyoming. The state health officer said her office is working with the University of Wyoming to interpret the data and decide which model is most accurate. She refused however to define what a best case and worst case scenario might look like.
Even though Harrist provided no numbers, her statement means that Wyoming is only planning for a worst case scenario.
Conversely, a best case scenario might suggest that the state may be overreacting, and might be causing unnecessary harm to the economy and to the mental well-being of individuals. Without numbers, we just don’t know if the government is overreacting or not.
In addition to extending the public health orders until May, the governor also issued a directive requiring any person coming in from out-of-state for a non-work related purpose to immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. The governor added that travel from out of state or country is a source of COVID-19 infections in Wyoming.
As of Monday morning, the Wyoming Department of Health is reporting that since March 11th, a total of 210 people have been confirmed positive for the COVID-19. On March 31st, Wyoming had just reached 100 cases – that number has more than doubled in the past week.
Not all of reported cases were in Wyoming when tested and continue to be treated out of state. Fifty cases reportedly have recovered. No deaths have occurred. Less than 10 percent were hospitalized.