Gov. Mark Gordon put the word on Wyoming residents on Monday.

“I just want to emphasize the critical nature of your personal responsibility in this matter,” Gordon said at a news conference in Cheyenne.

He’s heard from people who tell him that he’s either gone too far or not far enough in urging social distancing, he said.

“But it is you, the Wyoming people, that can make that difference,” Gordon said.

“If you act responsibly and not foolishly or selfishly, we can defeat this virus,” he said. “Every person who can should be staying at home, not walking around stores or family meetings or group outings.”

Gordon said the executive orders he’s signed are intended to be acted on personally to protect the health of everyone.

The recommendations for the public — stay at home, avoid crowds, only go out to get groceries,  and practice personal hygiene — are the same statewide, he said.

Gordon has not ordered a statewide shelter-in-place mandate, saying that some of those orders often have exemptions that undermine their very intent.

Gordon was accompanied by State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Medical Society President Dr. David Wheeler, both of whom also hammered on the need for personal responsibility.

Harrist said the total number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 statewide stood at 94 on Monday, more than triple the 26 from a week ago.

Because of the limited testing, those numbers actually are higher, she said, adding that 24 of those patients have recovered.

While other diseases like the flu have similar symptoms and can be fatal, the novel corona virus is just that — new — so people don’t have any immunity, Harrist said.

Wheeler, speaking on behalf of the 600 physicians and physician assistants in the Wyoming Medical Society, said the public needs to do its part.

“We desperately need you to stay at home so that we can stay at work,” he said.

Wheeler urged his colleagues to stop in-person clinic visits and use telehealth technology. He also recommended they cancel elective procedures that unnecessarily waste personal protective equipment resources that will be needed for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients to come.

Because of Wyoming’s small population, COVID came to the state later than elsewhere.
That has allowed residents time to prepare by avoiding personal contact and staying safely at home, he said.

But the smaller population means the state has fewer resources — equipment, hospital beds and personnel — necessary to deal with the disease.

“If we wait for people to show up in our emergency rooms, gasping for breath, we have waited too long,” Wheeler said. “If we do not act now, it is certain that we will use up all of the resources for health care in our state in just a matter of weeks.”

The problem will be compounded when health care workers inevitably fall ill, then people with other medical needs will not receive treatment, he added.

Businesses will fail, jobs will disappear, and goods services will become scarce, he said.

But these problems will become worse if people don’t take action, he said.

“If we flatten the curve now, our hospitals will have more time to prepare,” Wheeler said. “If we flatten the curve now, fewer people will be sick at any given time.”

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