Gov. Mark Gordon

Gov. Mark Gordon speaks during a news conference last month at the state Capitol in Cheyenne. On Friday, members of Wyoming’s legislative leadership put their stamp of approval on a wide-ranging plan to help mitigate the worst impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The multi-bill package will be voted on in an upcoming special session, which does not yet have a set date.

News&Guide’s COVID-19 coverage provided free to the community
However, this coverage is not free to produce. Our newsroom is working long hours to provide you the news and information you need during this public health crisis. We rely on our subscribers and advertisers to underwrite our news mission. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing today.

Haircuts. Bench presses. Tattoos.

Those are all services provided by businesses that Gov. Mark Gordon says can start reopening Friday. His office announced Tuesday afternoon that it would modify two health orders set to expire Thursday. The modified orders will go into effect Friday and last until May 15. They are the first step in the governor’s plan to ease coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses.

“Wyoming is one of the top four states poised to lead this nation back to recovery,” Gordon said at a press conference.

The first change will allow gyms to reopen with restrictions on how many people can be in the building; requirements for staff to wear masks and keep locker rooms closed; and a ban on one-on-one training and group fitness classes. The order will also allow child care centers to reopen, though they can only have up to 10 people and will have strict cleaning standards.

It also allows restaurants to start doing takeout orders, rather than curbside ones, for five people at a time. Gordon acknowledged that restaurant owners are waiting for the go-ahead to offer table service, which would allow them to rehire workers they had to lay off.

“We hope to issue clear guidance to them soon,” he said.

The second modified order allows personal care services to reopen, also with restrictions. Barber shops, salons, tattoo parlors and other services will be able to open if they do things like screen patrons, eliminate waiting areas, and require staff and clients to wear masks.

State health officer Alexia Harrist said limits on those businesses would allow some economic activity without jeopardizing public health gains because they can easily limit the number of customers. A third order limiting gatherings to less than 10 people will remain in effect until May 15.

County health officers can apply for variances as long as their plans are based on local data.

The News&Guide couldn’t reach Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell for comment before press time. At the Teton County Board of Health meeting Tuesday morning, just hours before Gordon’s announcement, Riddell pointed to both some positives for the county and some things he still had questions about. Declining numbers of positive tests and active cases would appear to show the outbreak stabilizing in Teton County, he said. However, he wanted to understand why there has been a recent drop in testing and a high hospitalization rate when compared with the rest of the state.

“I’m interested in getting a better handle on what’s going on,” he told the Board of Health.

In her remarks Tuesday, Harrist pointed to cloth face masks as one of the most important parts of the reopening plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear masks when they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from other people.

Those situations have included grocery stories and pharmacies and soon will include businesses outlined in the modified orders. Harrist pointed out that people do not need to wear them in their cars, when they are with people in their households or when exercising.

“If you wear a face covering but are asymptomatic or not sick yet, it can help prevent the spread,” she said.

Local officials were prepared for the change in orders. The Teton County Health Department has been working with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce to develop plans for businesses to keep staff and customers safe when they are allowed to reopen.

And the Jackson Police Department had a unique predicament this week. Police Chief Todd Smith said his department wanted to get the new orders as soon as possible to print informational brochures to hand out to antler hunters expected to arrive for the opening of horn hunting season on Friday.

“The lion’s share of these people are likely going to come for two days and stay one night here,” he said. “To some people it’s their livelihood.”

The police department plans to greet antler hunters at the fairgrounds, where they’re encouraged to camp Thursday night, to help them space out to maintain physical distancing and prevent gatherings of more than 10 people.

“These folks are people who come to Jackson every year,” Smith said. “I’m anticipating that we’ll get great compliance over at the fairgrounds.”

— Rebecca Huntington contributed to this report.

This article has been updated to show that the limit on gatherings is nine people. — Ed.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.