Gordon mourns Wyoming lives lost to COVID, 190 to suicide during pandemic - Casper, WY Oil City News
Oil City News Logo

Gordon mourns Wyoming lives lost to COVID, 190 to suicide during pandemic

Healthcare workers at the Wyoming Medical Center Respiratory Screening Clinic wave to first responders from several Natrona County agencies during a brief parade around the WMC campus in December in Casper. The parade was organized to show appreciation for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 surge. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

(UPDATE: Since Tuesday, the Wyoming Department of Health has reported 33 more deaths related to COVID-19 in the state.

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon delivered his “State of the State” address virtually to the Wyoming Legislature on Tuesday.

Gordon took a look back at challenges the state faced in the last year which was largely dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Article continues below...

“We in Wyoming have lost 489 souls [who contracted COVID-19] who were our parents, families friends, colleagues and neighbors,” Gordon said. “But we must also remember the loss of 190 good people to the tragedy of suicide through the pandemic. The serious and awful feelings of loneliness and confusion have caused much suffering as we continue to strive to protect those most vulnerable.”

Gordon expressed gratitude to the medical community.

“I speak for every citizen when I say we all have un-bounding admiration and everlasting gratitude to our doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers,” he said. “They are heroes and they have been magnificent.”

The governor said that with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, he believes Wyoming is at “the beginning of the end of our pandemic.” However, he said the pandemic is still putting stress on hospitals and people.

“The pandemic is still raging in our country and we must remain vigilant,” Gordon said, noting that such vigilance can help save lives.

The pandemic along with a weakened energy sector have put a strain on Wyoming’s economy and Gordon said the state will need to find ways to diversify.

However, he said that the state has seen seven straight months of economic improvement and that Wyoming businesses and families have proven to be resilient.

Federal CARES Act funding helped the state support businesses, schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, first responders and local governments and communities in Wyoming, Gordon said.

The state was able to deliver “nearly all” of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act dollars allocated to Wyoming.

“This was a tremendous help in keeping our state its citizens afloat during this pandemic,” Gordon said.

The Wyoming Legislature held a special session in May 2020 to help direct the use of the CARES Act funds. Gordon said that Wyoming distributed close to $500 million “directly to small businesses.”

The state was also able to direct $12 million to local communities during the last two weeks of 2020 to support nonprofits, Gordon said.

He added that Wyoming’s unemployment rate of 5.1% is among the lowest in the country and that he thinks the state is on a “much more solid footing than many of the other states.”

While the pandemic hurt many industries, Gordon said Wyoming’s tourism economy actually saw a surge and that some businesses in the industry saw record years in 2020.

The state allowed Yellowstone National Park entrances to open two weeks before either Idaho or Montana.

“Our state parks have never seen more visitors,” Gordon added.

He added that hunting and fishing also boomed during the pandemic.

Ranching and farming faced challenges not only due to the pandemic but also due to drought conditions.

Gordon said that his office will be unveiling some policy proposals in coming weeks aimed to ensure Wyoming’s economy continues to improve.

While the pandemic continues, Gordon said he thinks it is time for the state to begin to turn the page and start to address long term challenges Wyoming faces.

He said Wyoming’s budget picture “demands us to think big and act boldly.”

State agencies were required to make cuts to their budgets in 2020 and revenue projections could mean reduced funding for education and much more is in the pipeline.

The January Consensus Revenue Estimating Group report, however, does include a rosier revenue picture for Wyoming than projected in October.

Gordon said he would address the legislature in greater detail on some topics at a later date as their General Session proceeds.

The governor’s full “State of the State” address can be viewed online:

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: covid@cnchd.org

  • 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.