The Golden Girls - Blanche Devereaux
Mark Gordon says he disagrees with a state Republican Party resolution calling on him to rescind a state of emergency. Photo: Courtesy Gov. Mark Gordon

JACKSON, Wyo. — As neighboring states Idaho, Colorado, and Montana have all issued statewide ‘stay in place’ orders, and the Town of Jackson made an ordinance of its own, Wyoming is not yet prepared to go that far with measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a lengthy address to his constituents via an op-ed in the Sunday Casper Star Tribune, Governor Mark Gordon said, “So steadfast is my faith in you, the Wyoming people, to do the right thing, that I have not issued a statewide ‘shelter in place’ order. You already know how important it is to take responsibility for your actions. Do the right thing, do it the right way and do it right away!”

The Governor’s full statement:

Over the past couple of weeks our lives have changed dramatically and in historic ways. Several months ago, coronavirus was a disease affecting people somewhere else in the world. Since then our economy has been brought to a standstill, more than 100,000 have been infected to date and thousands of Americans have died. It is more than the flu. It infects young and old. It kills people. It spreads silently and aggressively, and we don’t have adequate supplies to combat it or sufficient tests to detect it.

COVID-19 has swept through our country and made its inevitable way to Wyoming. Every person in Wyoming will be impacted by this virus. Some directly by the illness itself, others by what is happening elsewhere in the country to control its spread—through closing businesses and closing schools, changing the way services are provided, and in the most extreme cases, locking down communities.

People have changed too. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other necessary supplies have been in short supply as folks have panicked and tried to stock up. Unprecedented millions have sought unemployment. And Congress, which could never seem to agree on anything, nearly unanimously agreed to inject trillions directly into our economy. These are historic times.

Wyoming is not immune. As governor, I, like other governors around the country, have taken extraordinary steps aimed at protecting the health of Wyoming citizens. I have not put these orders in place casually. I have considered each order carefully, weighing their health benefits carefully and their economic impacts fully. All have been absolutely necessary, recommended by Wyoming’s state epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist, and supported by Wyoming’s medical community. Every order has been designed to slow the spread, flatten the curve, of this exceptionally contagious virus. I have acted to save lives; your lives.

The real challenge we face now as a country, and especially in Wyoming, is how we can limit the number of people who will be infected by this virus and thereby reduce the number of those who will require hospitalization. For our rural state, this is particularly important. We simply don’t have enough healthcare workers or hospital beds should Wyoming experience the same surge in infections other states have. Nothing suggests Wyoming can avoid that same circumstance except perhaps our faith in Wyoming people. I believe Wyoming people don’t need to wait for an order to know the right thing to do. It is up to each of you to stem the tide of this terrible pandemic.

The actions you take over the coming days could not be more important. If you stay home whenever possible and limit contact with other people, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds regularly, and never leave home when you are sick, we can make a difference. You see every person with COVID-19 will infect at a minimum four others whether they cough, sneeze, yawn or just breathe. The virus lasts for a long time on metal surfaces like doorknobs and handles. It is invisible. Many are infected without knowing or showing the symptoms.

Our best hope is to limit the number of people potentially infected by limiting the number of people anyone can infect. You can make that happen. Be diligent in social distancing (maintain a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others), practice good hygiene and exercise common sense. We can do this!

We extended the orders on social distancing and closures for two more weeks—until April 17—because we had to. We need more time to fight the virus and for additional tests to become available. We must protect our frontline medical workers and our health care system. We need them to be ready to deal with the onslaught of our neighbors and friends who will get sick. Together we must make sure those needing care, regardless of why, will be able to get it when the crunch comes.

So steadfast is my faith in you, the Wyoming people, to do the right thing, that I have not issued a statewide “shelter in place” order. You already know how important it is to take responsibility for your actions. Do the right thing, do it the right way and do it right away! We can beat this virus, we can protect our people, save our health care system from collapse, help business to survive and rebound after this crisis is over, help our workers and reemerge a stronger Wyoming.

Be smart Wyoming! Stay home. Stay diligent. Defend our home.