Compiled from Wyoming News Exchange Newspapers
The number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming rose to 22 on Friday as the state Department of Health announced four new cases — one each in Fremont, Campbell, Teton and Natrona Counties.
The news came as state residents adjusted to the state health officer's ordered closure of bars, museums, fitness clubs and other businesses in the state that tend to draw crowds.
The cases in Campbell and Natrona counties were the first for those two counties, while the diagnosis in Teton county marked the second incidence of the virus there and the Fremont County case was that county’s ninth.
No other information about the cases was immediately available.
The cases surfaced came after Dr. Alexia Harrist issued the closure order Thursday to slow the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 in a move endorsed by Gov. Mark Gordon.
“Wyoming, like all Americans, must commit to reducing the strain on our health care system,” Gordon said in a news release. "These are hard measures and they will be difficult for employees and businesses alike, but they are warranted.”
Harrist’s orders closed child care facilities, bars, theaters, gymnasiums, all public schools, the University of Wyoming and community colleges until April 3.
Restaurants were allowed to remain open for curbside takeout and drive-through service only.
Gordon had earlier said he would leave the decisions on such closures up to local authorities but said in his news release Thursday he decided uniformity was needed in deciding what businesses should close.
“This governor has never been inclined to overstep local authority, but these are unprecedented times,” he said. “It is critical that there is uniformity across the state in how social distancing measures are implemented.”
Before Harrist’s order was issued, three counties had taken such action: Teton on Wednesday and Park and Laramie on Thursday.
All three counties have coronavirus cases — one each in Teton and Park and four in Laramie County.
Gordon addressed the state via Facebook on Thursday evening, where he spoke of the need for unity in difficult times.
Also on Friday, Gordon signed an executive order waiving some restrictions on commercial trucks carrying emergency relief supplies to allow for the quicker transportation of the items.
The order extends hours of service allowed by truck drivers and waives fees imposed for oversized and overweight loads, but only for trucks carrying “essential emergency relief supplies” to areas affected by coronavirus.
The order will make sure trucks can get to and through Wyoming as quickly as possible, Gordon said.
“It’s absolutely essential that we as a state are doing all we can to make sure these critical supplies aren’t delayed in transport to areas that need them,” he said. “We need to get these items where they need to go as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr urged businesses in her city allowed to remain open to pay close attention to the guidelines for preventing the spread of the illness and perhaps go so far as to cut back on their hours or reduce their workforce.
Orr also urged employers to let their employees remain at home to take care of their families without cutting their salaries.
“Many employees no longer have daycare available to them, have family or they themselves may be health-compromised and they are in fear of losing their job if they stay home,” she said in a statement. “When we have a workforce that is asking to be released for two weeks so as not to lose their job going forward, it speaks volumes.”
In other developments:
Coronavirus testing: As coronavirus test kits became more available to the state, the number of tests being conducted grew.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, the state’s Public Health Laboratory had tested 334 samples by Friday morning, while commercial labs had reported to the Health Department they had conducted 15 tests.
Health officials in three cities — Cheyenne, Rock Springs and Gillette — announced the establishment of drive-through coronavirus testing facilities, where samples could be collected from people who were referred to the facilities by their health care providers.
Sheridan officials announced they would open several testing centers to handle the demand for testing.
Health officials across the state reminded residents not to go to hospital emergency rooms for testing.
Air service: The Cheyenne Regional Airport announced it would suspend daily commercial flights to Dallas beginning April 7. Airport officials said they would wait to stop the flights to give anyone who wishes to return to Cheyenne time to do so.
The Natrona County International Airport limited access to its terminal to ticketed passengers, people helping others board or depart from a flight, airport employees or rental car customers.
“Those wishing to meet and greet friends and loved ones can do so from the comfort of their vehicle outside the terminal,” the airport said.
Similar measures were in place for airport in Rock Springs.
Hand sanitizer: At least two distilleries in Wyoming -- in Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs -- began work to manufacture hand sanitizer, mixing their products with glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and distilled or boiled water to make the sanitizer.
The move by Chronicles Distillery and Pine Bluffs Distilling comes after a change in federal rules that allowed distilleries to begin making hand sanitizer without prior approval.
Inmates released: About 30 non-violent inmates were released from the Fremont County Detention Center to minimize health risks at the jail.
A circuit court judge met with Fremont County’s attorney, public defender supervisor and sheriff to determine which inmates would pose a low risk if released.
Courts closed: Wyoming’s Supreme Court ordered all district and circuit courts to suspend in-person proceedings except in cases where such proceedings are required by the and the Constitution. Judges were encouraged to reschedule civil trials and use video or telephone conferencing as much as possible.
“We are fortunate that our branch (of government) has invested in video technology and upgraded our hardware in recent years so that we can perform many judicial functions remotely,” said Chief Justice Michael Davis.
Cookie deliveries: Troop leaders for the Jackson Service Unit of the Girl Scouts announced Thursday that the deliveries of Girl Scout cookies to Jackson customers would be delayed.
“While we know Girl Scout cookies will bring a little sunshine into everyone’s homebound life, we feel the risk is still too high to transmit the COVID-19 virus,” Margaret Gordon, a Girl Scout official, write in a community notice. “Some might argue cookies could be considered a necessity, but a responsible Girl Scout knows they are not.”