Due to increasing cases within the state, Gov. Mark Gordon issued new health orders on Nov. 19. The orders limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to 25 or less without restrictions. Gatherings indoors are limited to 25% of venue capacity and a maximum of 100 people. Outdoor events are limited to 50% of the capacity with a maximum of 250 people. Faith-based gatherings are exempt. Workout classes in gyms are limited to 25 people. All other restrictions stay the same. These restrictions are in place until Dec. 14.
“These measures are intended to assist our healthcare system in meeting unprecedented demands for services, assure that in-classroom education can continue, and importantly, keep Wyoming’s people working and her businesses open,” Gov. Gordon said in a press release provided by his office. “We have reached out extensively to our business community across the state and will continue to do so. We heard a clear message from them that they want to work cooperatively to ensure our economy, workforce and general public are healthy.”
There has been much back and forth about Thanksgiving this year. Gov. Gordon and the CDC recommend staying home to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“Thanksgiving is a special day for families. This virus is insidious and it strikes even at family gatherings where we are tempted to let our guard down,” he said in the press release. “Jennie and I encourage families to be careful this Thanksgiving and to keep gatherings smaller to protect their loved ones. We also wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.”
The governor’s health orders come one day after nine counties’ Public Health Officers issued mask mandates. Sweetwater, Sheridan, Park, Lincoln, Goshen, Carbon, Sublette, Natrona, Uinta and Hot Springs joined Teton, Laramie and Albany in requiring masks during certain activities.
On Nov. 18, Lincoln County Public Health Officer Dr. G. Christopher Krell, M.D., with the support and authorization of Alexia Harrist, M.D., Ph.D, the Wyoming State Health Officer, issued a public health order requiring all adults within Lincoln County to wear face coverings in certain places open to the public until Dec. 4.
Following the order, the Lincoln County Commissioners published a letter saying they “had hoped the order would be a recommendation only,” but they recognize that “experts in the medical field are best suited to understand the effects of COVID-19.” The commission recognizes that the Public Health officials have the authority for the mask mandate, The commission asked citizens to be respectful and understanding during this time.
Sheriff Shane Johnson published a letter to citizens on the evening of Nov. 18, stating that he believes that masks should be a choice and it is not the job of the Sheriff’s Office to police it. However, Sheriff Johnson states that he understands the coverings protect oneself and others from transmission, so he is requiring all staff to wear one. Sheriff Johnson also stated that he believes business owners have the right to require masks in their stores.
Lincoln County Attorney, Spencer Allred also published a letter to the citizens of Lincoln County. The letter stated that Allred would not require masks in his office due to “constitutional concerns and other logistical issues surrounding it.” Allred stated that while he understands both sides of the issues, he believes the decision for a mask mandate should be up to elected officials. Allred did ask citizens to respect private business owners and their right to operate their businesses as they see fit.
Shortly after the mask mandate was released, the Gazette received a letter from the Lincoln County Republican Party. The letter “challenges the authority of Dr. Christopher Krell to issue the Nov. 18, 2020, county-wide mask mandate…” The party is asking for repeal of the order since unelected officials were involved in the mandate.
The Public Health Order 2020-3
In order to help the community understand the health order, the order and the Wyoming statute and the restrictions involved have been posted below.
According to the order, “Wyoming Statute 35-1-240 (a)(i), (ii) and (iii) gives power to the Wyoming Department of Health, through the State Health Officer or under her direction and supervision, or through other employees of the Department of Health to investigate and control the causes or epidemic affecting the public health, and to establish, maintain and enforce isolation and quarantine, and in pursuance thereof, and for such purposes only, to exercise such physical control over property and over the people within this state as the State Health Officer may find necessary for the protection of the public health…”
This Wyoming State statute says that the department of health through the state health officer or through their direction and supervision is able to investigate and control the causes of epidemics and other diseases and afflictions, maintain and enforce quarantine and isolation, close public places and forbid gatherings, approve and require standard diagnostic tests, purchase and distribute vaccines, serums and other approved products and enforce sanitary standards in places of public need and gathering in order to protect the public health.
The public health order states that the mask mandate comes from the number of Wyoming residents at risk from serious health complications from COVID-19.
The order states that face coverings must be worn inside or in line for “any retail or commercial business, or any government facility…excluding state and federal buildings.” Face masks must also be worn when receiving any kind of healthcare, including animal healthcare as well as any sort of public transport or ride-sharing vehicle such as a taxi, according to the order.
Face coverings are not required in a personal offices as long as the public is not visiting the room, for minors, when seated at a table of a restaurant, when inside a location providing shelter care of some kind, if there is a medical condition preventing wearing a mask, when communicating with someone who is hearing impaired, if it would create a work hazard, to confirm identity, when receiving a service involving the face or nose and when actively exercising in a gym.