BY D. REED ECKHARDT
So Gov. Mark Gordon is moving on from “pretty please” government to “trust the people to do the right thing” government. Right. As if that approach worked in other states, which have unhappily faced the realities of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that without stern state-at-home orders, their residents are not willing to make a real effort to stop the spread of this often-fatal virus.
Asked on the radio Monday whether he was considering putting a similar order in place, the governor first
pretended that what he is doing in Wyoming is similar to what other states are doing with those orders. Not so.
|Projected number of Wyoming deaths. See model mentioned below.|
It is true that he has “asked” the people of Wyoming to not gather in groups of 10 or more and closed such things as restaurants, bars and personal services. But there are no teeth to his orders.
Instead, the governor has tried to use gentle persuasion. All he has to do is the check out pushback from the Cowboy State’s conservative types on social media and check the polls to see that too many residents do not believe this is anything more serious than a cold or, at worse, the regular flu. (Fact check: COVID-19 is at least 10 times more deadly than the standard flu and much more contagious).
The people of Wyoming are not going to take Gordon seriously until he takes firm action that shows how dangerous this all is. Right now he pandering both to those companies that want to stay open and to the political right by speaking softly and carrying no stick. That simply is not going to work.
The numbers clearly show Wyoming is headed big trouble if it doesn’t take this more seriously. That was made even clearer Monday when the Wyoming Medical Society urged the governor to act. He ignored the advice of the experts as well.
Here’s the deal: It is true that up to now the spread of COVID-19 has been a “blue state” problem. But a fresh analysis at FiveThirtyEight (https://53eig.ht/3bDyHVA) shows the spread of the virus actually is growing faster now in red states, such as Wyoming.
Indeed, the Cowboy State has the 19th fastest rate of increase with its case numbers rising more than 104 percent between March 23 and March 26. States like New Mexico, where I am currently living and where a stay-at-home order is in place, is up 72 percent. That is nothing to brag about, but it still is 31 percent below Wyoming’s rate.
The potential impacts of all of this are considerable.
Take a look at this model, which experts say is similar to the one that finally awoke President Trump to the realities of all of this (https://bit.ly/3bH0fsT). It estimates Wyoming could have as many as 264 deaths before all is said and done or as few as 48, depending on how quickly measures to flatten the curve are put into place. The current projection is for 132 deaths of our friends, families and neighbors.
Similarly, the graphic indicates that more ICU beds will be needed than currently are available even on the current curve. The only way to reduce that pressure on the hospitals, of course, is to act, and to act now.
It is encouraging that Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr spoke up over the weekend to say she believes a stay-at-home order is needed. As the mayor of the state’s largest city, she surely sees the potential for Cheyenne Regional Medical Center to be overwhelmed. And the mayor of Casper also has threatened to put an order in place if people don’t stop fooling around, just as the Town of Jackson did last week.
If Gordon continues to beg, wheedle and dither, it will be up to localities to act, just as the nation’s other governors have acted despite Trump’s previous unwillingness to get tough.
Orr must call the Cheyenne City Council into emergency session and get a stay-at-home order in place for the Capital City. If nothing else, perhaps that will encourage Gordon to take things seriously.
Similarly, the Laramie County Commission should meet with Health Officer Dr. Stan Hartman and take similar action. There are about 35,000 residents outside of the city who travel to Cheyenne to do most of their business. It will do no good for the city to act if the county will not back up that action.
The aforementioned model shows that if things go completely awry, Wyoming will need 107 ICU beds (it has just 44) as well as 86 ventilators. And it is obvious Cheyenne will bear much of the brunt of that.
The time to act is now, not when things get worse and it will be ever harder to flatten the curve. If Gordon won’t budge, then leadership in Cheyenne and Laramie County must do so by issuing stay-at-home orders and enforcing them with police and sheriff’s deputies.
Yes, I know, the political right will cry about a police state and loss of rights and all of that. And others will point out that going it alone will not stop outsiders from coming into the community.
Regardless, something has to be done to try to protect our friends, families and neighbors from the spread of this deadly virus. Even Trump finally has seen the realities of where this is heading, so what is holding Gordon and other leaders back? Forget political pushback. Stop fretting about re-election. Accept that there is going to be some economic pain.
Do your jobs, Gov. Mark Gordon, Mayor Marian Orr and County Commission Chairman Troy Thompson. Or are you all willing to sacrifice dozens of your fellow residents on the twin altars of politics and the economy?
D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.