Casper businesses, facilities cautiously reopen as COVID-19 guidelines ease - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Casper businesses, facilities cautiously reopen as COVID-19 guidelines ease

Rialto Barber Shop owner Larry Kirby disinfects the chair after giving regular customer Steve McGinty, left, a haircut on Friday, May 1, 2020 during the first day of operation since shutting down for coronavirus health regulations. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Rialto Barber Shop owner Larry Kirby doesn’t usually make mistakes. He has been cutting hair for over two decades, after all.

But on Friday morning he slipped up by accidentally cutting right through the strap of his customer’s face mask.

“I thought, ‘oh ****,'” said Kirby.

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The customer laughed it off, he said, but had to hold the mask against his face for the rest of the session.

Maneuvering sharp tools around mask straps while also wearing a mask is one of the new challenges of running a barber shop in the age of coronavirus. Happily, the rest of the day went well.

Signs greet customers at the door of the Rialto Barber Shop announcing new rules for coronavirus regulations. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The Rialto Barber Shop, a landmark for generations in downtown Casper, was one of dozens of businesses in town that eased their doors open on Friday after governor Mark Gordon relaxed state health ordinances put in place to fight coronavirus.

Steve McGinty, a regular at the barber shop, couldn’t wait to get his hair trimmed after weeks of neglect.

“It was long and ugly, lots of gray,” he said, sporting a clean buzz cut. “It’s still got a lot of gray but it’s shorter.”

Kirby is open by appointment-only, a radical departure from the traditional walk-in method. Today he had 17 regulars call for appointments, about half of his usual day’s work.

“I can only have one other person in the shop,” he said. The vintage bench near the bit picture windows is temporarily blocked off. He disinfects surfaces before and after appointments, and masks are mandatory.

Since he doesn’t have any employees, Kirby didn’t apply for any SBA loans during the shutdown.

“I figured I’m ok, but there are people out there that need the loan more than I do,” he said, adding the Rialto owners didn’t charge him rent while he was closed.

He says he’s slightly apprehensive about returning to work, since people can carry the virus without even knowing it and his protocols are so new.

At Eastridge Mall, Michelle Bowder stood with her 9-year-old daughter Remmy in the food court waiting for their order. The mall’s hours had been drastically reduced during the shutdown, but expanded back to near-normal today.

Michelle Bowder and her daughter Remmy, 9, wait for their food order in the Eastridge Mall food court on Friday, May 1, 2020. Chairs and tables have been cleared and stacked to prevent in-room dining. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Still, much of the mall was quiet at lunch time.

“It’s so empty, like an apocalypse type of thing,” said Bowder, who teaches tumbling at Rising Star Studios inside the mall. She hadn’t ventured out to the mall portion until Friday since the shutdown.

Rising Star has been offering classes online, but it’s not the same.

“It’s tough to engage with the kids online like that, it’s really different,” she said.

The Casper Recreation Center sent out a release on Thursday announcing their intentions to open. In spite of short notice, recreation supervisor Jen Haines said people showed up.

“We’ve had several of our regulars come back in, they were kind of chomping at the bit to get back to it,” said Haines. “It was a pretty busy morning.”

The basketball courts have been divided, with one side used as a cardio room at the Casper Recreation Center. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The workout spaces have been organized in three sections. A cardio room, and a “west gym” and “east gym,” which are just the basketball courts divided into two sections. Cardio equipment is spread across the east gym, and individuals can shoot hoops on the west side.

“As long as we have space available, you can drop in,” she said. Otherwise, reservations for one-hour blocks are required.

At the Rialto Barber Shop, overall Kirby said the first day since closing in mid-March went well.

“I’ve only had issues with one customer today, but everyone else has been outstanding, that’s been a huge blessing,” he said.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email:

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.