Until this week, the Republican governor of Wyoming had taken a fairly light approach to restrictions despite his state’s recent struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Governor Mark Gordon had avoided making a statewide mask mandate for the general public, although some restrictions remain in places like restaurants and cinemas. But even that was too much for GOP loyalists in the Western state. Amid the relatively lax restrictions, the Wyoming Republican Party state central committee passed a resolution in November urging the governor to “immediately cancel” the state of emergency he signed in March.
Instead of going down the path his party wanted, Gordon this week adopted a new set of measures. He finally announced a statewide order for masks in Wyoming and other restrictions after calls from health experts for stronger action on face covers.
For Christine Porter, the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Community and Public Health at the University of Wyoming, he showed the governor was going in the right direction “although he is forced to do so in an environment where people are systematically misinformed about science, leading them to make misinformed recommendations. “
Yet, she says, it could have happened sooner.
“It would have been a lot more effective and useful earlier, but it will still avoid damaging our lives and livelihoods, so it’s better late than never,” Porter told The Daily Beast.
Elsewhere in the state, the actions, which came in the form of orders signed by state health worker Dr. Alexia Harrist, were met with discontent from some local Wyoming Republicans..
Karl Allred, a Wyoming GOP state official in Uinta County, said Republicans are “very angry with [Gordon]. “
“He’s pushing these mandates when the clear majority of people here in the state don’t believe in masks, they don’t want them,” said Allred, who said he would not follow the New Mask Order and said falsely stated that the masks did. does not work because he described Gordon as “acting more like a dictator than an elected governor”.
And he wasn’t the only one among Republicans in the state who wanted to part ways with the governor because of the pandemic, as others have also painted a picture filled with false notions of the pandemic that have further alarmed experts. health.
“I have a feeling this virus exists, but it is being exaggerated by the media and our governor, in my opinion, has not done his research and his response will actually harm communities worse than the virus itself,” Washakie County Republican Party Chairman Rick Martin said, calling the restrictions unnecessary.
Local Republican leader Mike Lundgren, who is chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Party, said the state needed “someone who is more willing to keep our freedoms intact.”
“I’m looking to collect signatures to try and get our legislature to impeach him and have him removed because I think we’re there,” Lundgren said the day after the restrictions were announced.
Gordon, who tested positive for the virus last month, has now recovered and is back at work in the office while the state’s first lady also tested positive days after the governor, according to the office of the governor. A spokesperson for Gordon declined to respond to criticism leveled at him by some Republicans in the state contacted by The Daily Beast, saying in an email, “The health orders announced this week addressed serious concerns about the capacity. from the hospital and kept the state’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed.
The governor received a strong show of support from the state congressional delegation, despite the refusal from party officials at the local level. In a joint statement released on Monday, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) and two state senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi said that “Governor Gordon is committed to protecting Wyoming and his orders from health reflect this.
Data collected by the state’s health department shows that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state began to increase this fall and peaked at 247 patients on November 30, triggering an alarm in a rural and sparse state with a small population but plenty of land for cover. Melissa Ballengee Alexander, public health law expert at the University of Wyoming, said in an email to the Daily Beast, that “while improving recently, in November, Wyoming struggled with one of the rates highest COVID per capita in the country ”.
In April, a spokesperson for the governor proudly boasted in an email to the Daily Beast that “the governor has never ‘shut down’ Wyoming’s economy,” adding that “the public health orders we have put (limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer, closing schools, bars, restaurants, and personal service businesses) were limited in scope and were critical to protecting public health in Wyoming. “
Wyoming Republicans had already shown they were unhappy with Gordon’s handling of the pandemic even before the latest restrictions were announced. In mid-November, members of the Wyoming Republican Party’s state central committee passed a resolution urging the governor to “immediately cancel” the state of emergency because it “turned out to be worse than the cure. imposed by state restrictions on the right of individuals and business owners to earn a living supporting themselves and their families continues to seriously affect the citizens and economy of the great state of Wyoming ”, In the order of text provided by the State Party.
The idea raised by the state’s GOP central committee has been criticized by health experts who have warned of the serious situation Wyoming has faced as the pandemic continues.
“Our hospital workers are overworked and cannot sustain the current rate of long-term hospitalizations,” Alexander, the public health law expert, said in the email. “Everyone is (naturally) tired of the COVID restrictions, but we need to do more, not less, until the crisis passes.”
Dr David Wheeler, neurologist at Casper and president of the Wyoming Medical Society, said he “would like to see stricter prescriptions in place,” adding that “it is irrefutable that lives are saved”.
“People who loudly proclaim this to be a hoax or that the media explain it out of proportion, I am frankly amazed at their gullibility in ignoring the evidence in front of them,” said Wheeler, who been involved in helping the governor’s response to the coronavirus.
The adoption of the resolution last month has hardly changed its mind publicly. “I just think it was an unfortunate resolution, but maybe it was a sign of when this country became distant,” Gordon later told the editorial board of The Eagle of the Wyoming Tribune, according to the newspaper. “I certainly hope to work with the leadership of the GOP to try to find a way to kind of rethink what that resolution was.”
Additional restrictions announced by the governor and state health department this week, along with the mask requirement, included a requirement to close sites such as restaurants and bars at 10 p.m. for service in person and assembly limits with exceptions, according to ordinances. According to the governor’s spokesperson, “Counties may opt out, but their county-level parameters should improve before our public health official considers granting a county-level waiver to the mask order. , bringing together trade limits and restrictions. “
In announcing the order for masks, the state noted in a press release that “16 counties in Wyoming already have county-level orders requiring face coverings,” out of 23 counties in the state.
Highlighting their disappointment at Gordon’s latest approach, some have also referred to South Dakota housekeeper Kristi Noem, who has become a star on the Right to avoid coronavirus restrictions even as her state has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“I think he should do more like what South Dakota is doing and open that up and have a little bit of trust in the common sense of the people,” said Martin Kimmet, the Chairman of the Park County Republican Party.
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