JACKSON, Wyo. — Governor Mark Gordon announced today that updated public health orders effective May 15 will ease restrictions on several business categories and permit restaurants to resume indoor table service statewide.

“We have been working diligently to modify our public health orders to continue a safe and sensible reawakening of Wyoming’s economy,” Governor Gordon said in a press release.

The modified orders allow restaurants to offer indoor and outdoor dining service under specific conditions intended to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. These include adequate spacing of tables, a requirement that staff wear face coverings and be screened for symptoms of COVID-19, as well as the implementation of increased sanitation measures.

State Order #2 also expands the maximum number of people allowed to gather to 25 and permits larger gatherings for churches, religious organizations, and funeral homes as long as they implement social distancing measures and specific sanitation procedures.

Movie theaters and performance venues will also be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity and permit public gatherings of up to 25 people. Gyms may now open locker rooms, offer personal training, and provide group classes for up to 20 participants. Childcare centers will be permitted to have up to 25 persons total in a classroom.

Gordon encouraged continued vigilance about social distancing and emphasized the importance of personal responsibility under the modified orders.

“The virus is not gone,” Gordon said in a press release this afternoon. “The virus is still here, still invisible, and still capable of wreaking havoc… Only you can prevent the kind of rollback we might require.”

The Governor has also allocated $17 million in federal funding to expand COVID-19 testing, improve contact tracing and add to the state’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The $15 million Governor Gordon has allocated to the Wyoming Department of Health will help the agency increase its diagnostic testing and contact tracing capabilities. Funds will be used to bolster testing capacity at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, obtain additional testing supplies and provide additional support to the team that does contact tracing.

The governor has also allocated $2 million to the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, who will be working with the Wyoming Business Council, to purchase PPE and distribute it to non-health care related entities to support public safety for businesses and other entities across the state under the new health orders.

Q&A session highlights:

Gordon addressed a growing restlessness in Wyoming concerning protests and other displays of defiance. A listening session of a half-dozen Wyoming legislators yesterday in preparation for a special 2-day session that will convene Friday also included numerous public comments about reopening timing and whether dissenters who opened ahead of schedule would be arrested.

When asked about the stance Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill is taking on enforcement of statewide health orders, Gordon responded, “You’ll have to speak with the Attorney General about that,” adding he felt statewide orders to be lawful and fairly loose when compared to other states. He added, county and municipalities in Wyoming were welcome to their own discretion on making arrests or prosecuting anyone who went against health orders.

“We’ve erred on the side of thoughtful and safe, and our orders are much looser than any other state,” Gordon said. “That said, I think it’s incredibly selfish of some to put others at risk when they choose to disregard the health of others in the community. They are putting county attorneys in awkward situations.”

When asked whether opening just the Wyoming entrances to Yellowstone—South entrance (Jackson Hole) and East entrance (Cody)—would reroute park traffic and “open the floodgates” for some gateway communities, the governor responded,” absolutely,” and reiterated the need to be vigilant about health and safety.

An estimated 70% of Yellowstone visitation comes via Montana’s three gates—West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and Cooke City-Silver Gate. Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock has stated he would like to give his gateway communities more time to prepare for visitors. He is targeting June 1.