Wyoming governor: ‘Knuckleheads’ behind COVID-19 resurgence
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s first new public-health orders to limit spread of the coronavirus since last spring are coming soon, but what they will be remains to be seen, Gov. Mark Gordon said Friday.
State officials since May have been relying on people to decide for themselves if they wanted to keep the virus in check by wearing masks, keeping a safe distance away from others and avoiding crowds.
That isn’t working. COVID-19 cases and deaths have been surging since September, appearing on a chart not like a curve but a “trajectory,” said Gordon, a Republican.
“It’s time that Wyoming woke up and got serious about what it’s doing,” Gordon said at a news conference. “We’ve relied on people to be responsible, and they’re being irresponsible. They think somehow this is all nonsense.”
People are being “knuckleheads” about the virus, Gordon said.
Wyoming will keep its current not-very-restrictive public health orders in place for another week while state officials consult with local business leaders on what to do next, Gordon said.
Gordon declined to hint at specifics, including whether new measures would include a statewide mask order like those in 34 states.
“We’re looking at a whole suite of ways to respond to this,” Gordon said.
Wyoming now ranks behind only the Dakotas for new coronavirus cases per 1,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University’s database on the virus.
Wyoming hospitals report almost 200 people hospitalized with COVID-19, quadruple the number a month ago. Hospitals are setting up tents to make room for intensive care patients, Gordon said.
At least 127 Wyoming residents have died of COVID-19, according to the state health department.
Much of the spread in Wyoming hasn’t been in public but when people let their guard down in gatherings of families and friends. People spread the virus in such settings despite showing no symptoms, department Director Mike Ceballos said.
“There is such a large number of asymptomatic people that we can’t even track,” Ceballos said.
About 7,500 people in Wyoming as of Friday had tested positive for the virus and had not yet recovered, or 1 in every 77 of the state’s residents. The number was roughly 15 times higher than the known extent of infection last summer.
Gordon dismissed the idea of isolating medically vulnerable people while letting others go about their business, saying he knew a 29-year-old with COVID-19 who was fighting for her life.
“We’ve relied on personal responsibility throughout this pandemic. So ask yourself, has this really been working?” Gordon said.
Nationwide, the number of cases is thought to be far higher than reported numbers because not everyone has been tested, and people can have COVID-19 without showing any symptoms.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
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