WEB ONLY Laramie Coronavirus

Masks wait on an exam chest in an exam room in early March set aside specifically for any individuals suspected to have the virus as part of Student Health Services’ preparations in case the virus arrives in Laramie at the University of Wyoming.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting just about every facet of life all over the world, Albany County is no exception.

On Friday, Laramie and the rest of the county were preparing for unprecedented times, not unlike the rest of the state. But although Wyoming has been criticized in various media outlets for its lack of pandemic preparedness, Laramie Mayor Joe Shumway praised the city and county’s work to combat the virus.

“I think we’re on top of everything,” Shumway said. “We’re looking two weeks down the road and we’ll reevaluate closures and resolutions as needed. We’re just trying to find ways to continue all the services within the city.”

As of press time Friday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Albany County. Ivinson Memorial Hospital was still waiting on results from eight pending tests.

There were 20 confirmed cases in Wyoming, most of which were in Fremont County. Neighboring Laramie County currently has four confirmed cases. The World Health Organization currently classifies COVID-19 as a pandemic.

On Thursday night, Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Alexia Harrist issued an order closing “public places,” mostly directed at businesses such as restaurants (other than delivery, curbside, take or drive-thru orders), bars, gyms and childcare centers to close, effective immediately, until at least April 3.

Earlier in the week, the Laramie City Council unanimously voted to suspend all boards and commissions during the pandemic. All of the county schools are closed until early April, as well.

Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent noted that county officials submitted a request to the attorney general and governor’s office for permission to order the businesses’ closures, but Gordon’s order came before it was approved. The Albany County health official requested permission to issue an order of no more than 10 people to any public gathering, which he approved and issued a statewide order for on Friday evening.

This order supplements the one issued Thursday evening. However, it doesn’t close any additional businesses and doesn’t apply to gatherings at private residences, hotels and motels, government facilities and businesses, grocery stores and retail or business establishments that can provide adequate social distance spacing of six feet or more. Healthcare, long-term care and assisted living facilities are also exempt from this order.

Beginning Monday, most of the Albany County offices will limit their access to the public, conducting as much business as possible through mail, email, over the phone or other electronic methods. The circuit and district courts will be open for hearings, though.

In two weeks, city and county officials will reevaluate the situation and look at any recommendations from the federal or state level before deciding whether or not offices and businesses should remain closed to the public.

Albany County Undersheriff Josh DeBree said that although Gordon called for criminal penalties for any business found to still be operating after his order was decreed, the sheriff’s department hasn’t seen anyone trying to rebel.

“I think people have done a really good job of policing themselves, honestly,” he said. “Business owners have been very responsible with this. This is a serious situation and we need everyone to do their part to flatten that curve.”

Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at elfylucille@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.

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