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Even more Wyomingites say employment has been affected by coronavirus
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Even more Wyomingites say employment has been affected by coronavirus

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Easter Dinner Hand Out

Sarah Farrer and her four children walk through the line for Easter dinner at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming April 10 in Casper. Nearly 40 percent of Wyoming residents told UW researchers that they or a relative have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 40 percent of Wyoming residents told University of Wyoming researchers that they or a relative has been laid off because of the spread of the coronavirus and its effects on the economy, an even higher total than earlier this month.

When UW’s Survey and Analysis Center asked Wyomingites late last month whether they or a family member had lost their job because of the pandemic, roughly a third said they had. That number has increased as people seeking unemployment benefits continue to climb and social distancing efforts continue to impact Wyoming’s economy.

There was also an increase in the number of people who say their hours or pay have been cut because of the coronavirus pandemic. The previous version of the survey, published on April 2, found that more than 50 percent reported changes to their work loads. This latest report says more than 60 percent now report hour or pay cuts.

Just under 500 Wyomingites were surveyed on April 13 by UW researchers, the university said in a press release. The margin of error is 4.4 percent. There was a slight drop in the people who see the disease as a real threat and not blown out of proportion, though 61 percent still believe that to be true.

As of Thursday morning, there have been 296 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Wyoming, taking into account three new patients identified in Natrona County. There are at least 105 probable cases, and 176 people have recovered between the two categories. Two people have died; both of those fatalities were confirmed earlier this week.

“We are happy to have the ability to field this research regularly throughout this pandemic,” Brian Harnisch, a senior research scientist in charge of the project at the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, said in a statement. “We hope this information continues to prove useful throughout this period to our state and local government officials, the media and our fellow Wyoming community members as a whole.”

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said they were “very concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on the economy,” another slight increase from the April 2 report. But fewer people — 30 percent compared to more than 35 percent — said they were worried about the impact on their personal finances. The Internal Revenue Service has begun dishing out $1,200 checks to all Americans, and federal legislation has increased unemployment benefits, even for people temporarily out of work.

Roughly 90 percent of people said they’ve changed their daily routines in little or significant ways, roughly the same percentage as earlier this month. Fewer people — but still more than 70 percent — say they’re eating out less than before the pandemic. All restaurants in the state have been closed to in-person dining for nearly a month now, though people can still support the businesses via curbside pick up.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that all people wear face coverings whenever they have to leave their home. The survey found that 45 percent of Wyomingites say they’ve followed that advice.

According to the survey’s findings, a quarter of Wyomingites believe that the worst of the pandemic has already happened, a significant increase from the last time the survey was administered. That position may be optimistic when it comes to Wyoming: Gov. Mark Gordon and other officials have repeatedly said that the peak of the disease here has yet to come.

As for Gordon’s efforts to slow the spread, there’s broad support: 84 percent of respondents said they supported closing schools; 78 percent supported closing day cares; 82 percent supported limiting public gatherings.

On Wednesday, Gordon said he’d taken “heat” for not issuing a shelter-in-place order for Wyoming, and he pushed back against the suggestion that he had closed down Wyoming. The survey found that a majority of people now agree with him: Only 48 percent supported a shelter-in-place order, a decrease from 54 percent earlier this month.

As for Gordon’s performance, more than three-quarters of those surveyed said they approved of his handling of the situation, compared to 20 percent who disapproved. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they approved of President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis, while 36 percent disapproved.

The survey also found support for local media’s reporting on the pandemic, with 66 percent saying they trust reporting from Wyoming outlets. As far national coverage, only 41 percent here said they trusted it “a great deal or a good amount.”

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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"Wyoming, we have a tendency to just kind of pooh-pooh things and blow it off," the head of the state's hospital association said, "but this thing’s here, it’s at our doorsteps, and we can control our own destiny if we do the right thing."

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