A graph from a survey conducted by the University of Wyoming this week shows that 39% of respondents believe the worst is yet to come in Wyoming’s bout with a global pandemic. The numbers have fluctuated over the course of four surveys UW has conducted in the state throughout the pandemic. (University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center)

In the ninth week of Wyoming’s pandemic experience, the state entered into a new normal as bars and restaurants statewide prepared for indoor service and a survey found fewer residents are maintaining strict social distancing.

On Sunday, May 10, the state had seen 503 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 158 probable cases. There had been 443 recoveries. As of Friday morning, there were 529 confirmed cases, 172 probable cases and 487 recoveries. 

By those numbers, there are 214 active confirmed or probable cases in the state at the end of week nine, down from 218 on Sunday.

New orders issued by Gov. Mark Gordon this week allow for statewide indoor dining services under certain restrictions and raise public gathering limits from 10 to 25 people. Childcare centers can have up to 25 people in a classroom. Education around the state remained online even as school districts experimented with new approaches to graduation ceremonies. 

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks announced plans to open some areas to day-use visits beginning Monday, suggesting Wyoming could soon begin to see an influx of outside visitors. 

Officials and state residents expressed anxiety about those and other developments even while supporting incremental steps toward “normal.”  

Gordon endorsed the national park openings but said they — along with his own steps to open the state — worried him.

“I’m very anxious because we are loosening substantially many of the requirements we had in place,” he said at a Wednesday press conference. “We’re doing that in a way that we believe is safe and yet I stand before you today knowing that our citizens are at greater risk today, because of what we’re talking about with Yellowstone Park, than they were. That’s not easy.”

The state continues to stockpile supplies and improve its testing capabilities. Wyoming received a small supply of the drug remdesivir, which has shown promise at speeding recovery from the virus, the Casper Star-Tribune reported

Fremont County remains the state’s hot spot  — a dubious mantle some believe it has claimed by having the state’s highest testing rates. 

As of Thursday, Fremont accounted for 131 active confirmed or probable cases, more than half the statewide total by WyoFile’s calculations.  

Despite the continued higher presence of the virus in Riverton, elected officials there called for a reopening. Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun announced he would not enforce certain elements of public health orders, pitching his preemptive decision not to prosecute as a stance against “oppression,” the Riverton Ranger reported

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A fourth survey from the University of Wyoming showed a decline in support for measures designed to protect public health by slowing COVID-19’s spread. Support for closing schools, daycare centers, bars and restaurants as well as for limiting public gatherings all declined by between 5 and 7 percentage points from UW’s previous surveys. Still, in all cases a significant majority continues to support the above-named measures. 

Support for Gordon’s response to the crisis remained high and fairly steady at 74%. 

A slight majority, 51%, of survey respondents are wearing masks and other protective equipment in public, but fewer respondents than in previous surveys are avoiding restaurants, declining visits with friends and family or visiting places of worship. 

Lawmakers convened online and some in person in the Capitol for a special session Friday to begin distributing $1.25 billion in federal funding Wyoming received from the CARES Act. At least $500 million is on the table for an initial round of spending on hospitals, Wyoming businesses and to stave off real estate evictions. Gordon called on lawmakers to appropriate the money in ways that are simple, efficient and responsive. 

The Capitol is closed to the public but some reporters are on hand to observe the proceedings in the building. WyoFile is present. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a truck with 18 tons of food to a hard-hit food bank in Laramie, the Laramie Boomerang reported. Powell-area photographers set up an exhibition of photographs printed large enough to be enjoyed by residents in their cars, the Powell Tribune reported. The event will benefit a food bank in that area. 

Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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