Wyoming is beginning to look at rolling back some restrictions on businesses that were put in place to try and contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Mark Gordon told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Tuesday, though he stressed that testing capacity is still far below where it needs to be to fully lift all social distancing measures implemented by his administration over the past month.
Stressing that Wyoming “never really closed down,” Gordon said that his administration was working on a graduated plan to help communities implement their own pathways to opening businesses, including potentially lifting restrictions on some businesses while providing community leaders with new tools to help understand how close they are to resuming business as usual.
“We’re now looking at ways to relax some of the requirements we have for barbers and beauty salons and others to sort of get people back working again in these pretty work-a-day type professions that everyone depends on,” Gordon said.
Gordon’s office was contacted by the Star-Tribune Wednesday for comment clarifying what other businesses that category could include. The governor’s office had not responded as of press time.
To help guide counties to reopening, Gordon told the Fox News host that the state plans to release a dashboard later this week outlining a number of criteria needing to be met to safely begin reopening businesses, aligning with guidelines issued by the federal government earlier this month.
Criteria likely to be evaluated by the dashboard include the number of ICU beds available in each county and the prevalence of “non-traceable” cases of COVID-19, as opposed to community spread cases.
However, Gordon noted that testing capacity in Wyoming is still well below where it needs to be, hampering a critical component of any short-term plan to safely lift social distancing measures.
“Despite what everyone says, testing capacity is still an issue, and we’re working just like every other state to get adequate tests, adequate PPE,” said Gordon. “That’s one of the measures we’re looking at.”
His appearance on the network came one day after the governor met on the steps of the Wyoming State Capitol with roughly 100 protesters who demonstrated against the governor’s social distancing measures and closure orders. Gordon said his administration has been working to find a careful balance between “both extremes” in combating the virus, relying primarily on county officials to implement guidelines that fit the unique situations in their own communities, like Teton County, which has implemented social distancing measures that are stricter than those the state has ordered. The county’s largest city, Jackson, has the highest per-capita rate of the virus in Wyoming.
Ultimate plans to reopen, Gordon has stressed, will largely be data-driven, and will be predicated by one significant factor: the ability to adequately track the virus. In his own interview on the network Wednesday morning, Sen. John Barrasso told Fox News we “need to get our economy going again,” with the rollbacks beginning in places where numbers are going down, 14-day criteria are met and “where there is enough testing available.”
Those recommendations align with comments made by CDC chief Deborah Birx. She told reporters on Tuesday that surveillance of the virus will likely need to continue into the fall in order to prevent a possible resurgence during flu season, which some say could be accomplished using a phased-in approach that takes advantage of existing flu infrastructure.
However, the World Health Organization also stressed Tuesday that moving too quickly to reopen economies could likely result in a resurgence of the virus, and that any reopening needs to be done in a gradual approach.
“What’s important right now is safely reopening our communities, using the science and guidelines Dr. Birx has come up with,” Barrasso said. “I think phase one, phase two and phase three is the way to go, and when the next flu season hits, I want this economy really churning away successfully again.”
Gordon said Tuesday that any of those policy decisions will take time.
“We want to do the right thing here,” Gordon said. “Nobody has figured out how to relax in a pandemic like this. So bear with us – we’ll keep you updated and will do the right thing.”
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