Our View: Shelter-at-home order needed in Wyoming
April 15, 2020
It’s a photo we’re definitely happy to publish.
The main image on the cover of this newspaper depicts two teens playing basketball at Edgewater Park last week. From the action in the image to what they’re wearing, it’s a photo announcing the arrival of spring in Sweetwater County.
Yet, there’s a problem with the image. It was taken during a time when people have been asked to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from one another during a worldwide pandemic.
We’re not criticizing the teens in the photos here. While they’re not following strict guidelines on social distancing, they’re not violating any of the new rules enacted by the city. Playgrounds may be closed, but parks are still open. We also recognize the need to get out of the house, especially for those who have taken the idea of self isolation seriously.
However, we believe it’s time for an actual stay-at-home order from Gov. Mark Gordon. Wyoming is one of eight states without a statewide order. Jackson initiated a stay-at-home order March 28 and Wyoming’s tribes followed suit shortly after, but in Cheyenne, the Governor’s office seems perfectly happy ignoring what a majority of states have done and pass the buck to individual councils and commissions. This is the wrong response.
We believe this reason comes from a fear of upsetting GOP supporters. Many, including Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), have expressed that Wyoming doesn’t need to have a stay-at-home order. Some have said the reason comes from Wyoming’s natural isolation as cities and towns are hours away. Others think it should business as usual regardless of a pandemic. The one thing we think Gordon is concerned with is how those voices would react to his issuance of a statewide shelter-in-place order.
“...remember that people are spread out here. We only have about five people per square mile. We have been socially distancing the entire 130 years that we have been a state,” Barrasso told Fox News recently.
Barrasso’s comments are based on a flimsy assumption that because Wyoming communities are so spread out, the disease naturally won’t progress throughout the state. However, this doesn’t account for how the disease will spread within affected counties. Teton County, as of Tuesday morning, has 57 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Laramie County, home to the state’s capital, has 62 confirmed cases. Fremont and Natrona counties have 76 confirmed cases between them. Also, because a shortage of tests means not everyone suspected of being infected with COVID-19 are tested,
The right person in the wrong place makes all the difference in the world. All it takes is for someone who is infected but not showing symptoms to travel around a town and spread it to everyone.
This is especially true as there are cases of asymptomatic (meaning someone not showing any symptoms) infections. The possibility is there.
While we are advocating for a shelter-in-place order, we want to remind everyone this wouldn’t be a permanent change. A couple of months at maximum. While we also acknowledge there are consequences to be had as a result, we believe the health of people throughout Sweetwater County and Wyoming weighs as a more important objective.
We believe Wyoming needs to have a stronger response to the pandemic and think a stay-at-home order needs to be in place. Better late than never and doing so now would limit future exposure and infections.