State, county orders force closure of businesses

By: 
Alexis Barker

Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ

The Dogie Theatre in Newcastle is among many area businesses that are currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

 

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

In a special meeting convened by the Weston County Commission on March 19, County Health Officer Dr. Michael Jording presented the commissioners with a proposed public health order closing all nonessential businesses in the county due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Tony Barton moved to approve the order. The motion carried on a 4-1 vote. The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Tracy Hunt.

The order had no time to take effect, however, because Gov. Mark Gordon issued an order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people and closing nonessential businesses statewide. 

In a press briefing on Monday, Gordon said that with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state reaching 28, it is likely that COVID-19 is going to impact life in Wyoming for some time, according to information provided by the Wyoming News Exchange. Weston County, to date, has no confirmed cases, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. 

“I will say this isn’t going to be over in two weeks,” Gordon said in the briefing. 

Rationale for the order, included in the document, indicates that both President Donald Trump and Gordon have declared a state of emergency for the country and the state, respectively. Those declarations have included recommendations that schools close and that no gatherings of more than 10 people take place during the novel coronavirus disease outbreak, and the order approved by the commissioners follows the same pattern.

“Whereas, it has been determined that a method to control the community spread of the coronavirus is to close certain public places,” the county’s order states, “this order may reduce the likelihood that individuals may have been exposed to COVID-19 will spread the virus to others, and therefore is entered to protect the health of the public.” 

Reducing the spread of the virus, the order says, will “preserve critical and limited healthcare capacity in Weston County.” 

The businesses to be closed, as listed in the order, are theaters, bars, nightclubs, saloons, taverns, tasting rooms, coffee shops, employee cafeterias, self-serve buffets, salad bars, unpackaged self-serve food services, golf clubs and country clubs, communal pools, hot tubs, locker rooms, saunas, steam rooms, fitness centers, gyms, conference rooms, spas and museums. 

“It is further ordered, that restaurants may remain open if the restaurant notifies the Director of Public Health Lori Bickford, that they intend to remain open and follow these procedures: prohibit all dine-in food service and allow curbside take-out or drive-thru food service,” the order says. “Employees must take food to the curb and exchange through the vehicle window. For hotel restaurants, food items may only be delivered as room service or curbside service as described above.” 

The order also contains a provision that “management shall ensure, on a daily basis, that no employee who presents symptoms of illness will be permitted to work,” and that anybody who violates the order “shall be subject to criminal prosecution.” 

Under the order, the Weston County health officer may grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The order will remain in effect for 14 days or until the county health officer enters an order revoking or modifying the order. 

On the state’s order, Gordon said in a press release that social distancing has been proven to help reduce the spread of the virus and that he appreciates the willingness of the state’s residents to comply with this action. The release also said that it has become clear that adults age 18 to 50 are also at risk of being hospitalized because of the virus. 

“People of any age can spread this disease to others who are especially vulnerable to more serious or life-threatening illness,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer, said in the news release. “We’ve recommended limits on gatherings, this order is an official step to put those recommendations in to action. Slowing and limiting the spread of the disease is our goal.”

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