Forty-two states as of Friday have issued directives requiring their residents to stay at home unless for an essential purpose.
The strategy is supported by health experts across the U.S. who continue to search for ways to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed thousands of people in the U.S. in a matter of six weeks.
Health experts have identified social distancing as an effective way to slow the virus’ spread. Shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders have been employed to effectively make social distancing a legal requirement.
Wyoming is one of the eight states that has not issued such an order to limit the transmission of the virus.
Gov. Mark Gordon has faced scrutiny from residents and health experts alike over his reluctance to do so. He has urged Wyomingites to stay at home as much as possible. Those recommendations don’t carry any force of law, however.
Gordon and state Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist have issued public health orders closing schools, gatherings of 10 or more people and certain businesses. Those orders each have exemptions. Some places, like grocery stores, have been deemed essential, while others haven’t been specifically addressed.
The governor has said those orders, if properly followed, equate to exemption-filled shelter-in-place orders issued elsewhere, adding that if he were to issue a shelter-in-place order, it would be exemption-free.
The Star-Tribune compared his orders with state-issued orders in states bordering Wyoming, as well as orders issued by Teton County and the Wind River Reservation to contextualize Gordon’s assertion.
Our analysis found that Wyoming’s restrictions are similar to neighboring states that have issued stay-at-home orders on top of other public health directives closing schools and businesses, similar to Gordon’s.
In some cases, Wyoming’s restrictions on businesses are even more restrictive than states with shelter-in-place orders. Colorado, for example, issued similar orders to Wyoming’s closing schools and certain businesses but hasn’t required a travel quarantine for out-of-state visitors, which Gordon issued April 3.
Day cares are also allowed to be open without exception in Colorado, whereas day cares in Wyoming may only remain open if they’re serving essential personnel.
Idaho, which also has a shelter-in-place order, hasn’t mandated quarantines for out-of-state travelers, though Idaho has taken more restrictive measures than Wyoming in other ways.
Wyoming is more lenient than border states that have issued shelter-in-place orders in its limitations on gatherings and retail stores. Wyoming’s order limits gatherings of 10 or more, while every bordering state with a shelter-in-place order prohibits gatherings altogether, unless for essential reasons. Wyoming also does not limit retail, other than requiring stores to honor social distancing.
The major difference between Wyoming’s current public health orders and states with shelter-in-place orders is that while Gordon’s orders primarily address locations — places where people may gather — shelter-in-place orders directly mandate action, or inaction, from residents themselves.
Still, health experts, including members of the Wyoming Medical Society and Natrona County’s health officer, Dr. Mark Dowell, are urging Gordon to issue an order requiring residents to stay home.
And health experts aren’t the only ones: As of Friday evening, more than 2,000 people had signed a Teton County petition asking the governor to approve the stricter countywide order his administration previously compromised by requiring more businesses be allowed to stay open. Cheyenne Mayor Marion Orr has also supported a statewide stay-at-home order via Twitter.
The Star-Tribune also used data analysis to compare Wyoming to similar states in terms of new confirmed cases and testing for the virus. Our comparisons look at states without shelter-in-place orders, states with the lowest population density, states with the lowest populations and Wyoming’s border states.
Making these comparisons provides a snapshot of how Wyoming compares to its peers. For both testing and confirmed cases per 100,000 people, Wyoming ranks in the middle among neighboring states, as well as among other states without shelter-in-place orders. Colorado has consistently had the most cases of any of Wyoming’s neighboring states, with Utah and Nebraska following.
South Dakota has seen a large growth in cases, jumping in a recent seven-day span by more than 200 percent. Nebraska and Montana, on the other hand, have some of the fewest cases per 100,000 in the country: Nebraska with the fourth-fewest and Montana the sixth, as of Friday.
Similar comparisons can be drawn between states in the other metrics. North Dakota is among the states yet to issue a shelter-in-place order. The state has relatively few cases per 100,000 compared to states without those orders, while ranking nearly at the top — just behind Utah — in tests per 100,000 people.
We encourage you to look through the charts and make your own comparisons with the data.
While the information reflects too small of a sample size to make complete assumptions, the figures do provide context for Wyoming’s position in the conversation. As the situation evolves, the Star-Tribune will continue to contextualize Wyoming’s place by keeping these infographics current online.
Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites
In this Series
- 249 updates
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.