Governor Mark Gordon held a press conference Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the state’s COVID-19 response and recently announced budget cuts. He was joined by Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and epidemiologist.
Gordon announced that there are currently 1,605 lab-confirmed COVID cases in the state, with an additional 380 probably cases. To date, there have been 1,211 recoveries, leaving 371 active cases statewide. There have also been 22 deaths in Wyoming, with Sweetwater County recording its first death yesterday.
“We’re ticking up,” Gordon said. He speculated that some of the uptick could be a result of the recent Independence Day holiday with its social gatherings. Gordon said he has no desire to issue a statewide mask mandate, but he fully supports any municipality that chooses to issue one locally.
“And if any business wants to say no shirt, no shoes, no mask, by God I’m going to respect that,” he proclaimed.
Harrist stressed the need to follow the same precautions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended for months now: stay home when sick, wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.
Regarding the status of school openings this fall, the Governor reported that the Department of Education’s Smart Start program requires all school districts to submit their plans for opening to the state by August 3.
“It’s still unclear what will happen by mid-August,” the Governor stated. He said any opening plan would almost certainly include masks, but didn’t specify how they might be required.
Concerning the state budget, Gordon’s message was dire.
“Put simply, we don’t have enough income,” he said. “We’ve lost a third of our income.”
He has asked every state agency to make a list of areas from which they can make cuts. Each state agency, with the exceptions of the Wyoming Departments of Health, Corrections and the Attorney General’s office, has been asked to trim 10% from their operating budgets. He pointed out the importance of the three agencies to the state’s pandemic response but said those departments could also be cut in the future if the need arises.
“It will be up to the legislature to determine what things we don’t have the money to do from here,” he said.
Gordon closed his remarks by pointing out some areas where Wyoming is doing better than many other states. He reported that the state has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country, as well as the third lowest COVID death rate.
“You can make a difference,” the Governor encouraged. “It’s about how we behave.”