ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING (MAy 5, 2020) — In the first of a few stages of attempting to reopen Sweetwater County and the local economy while avoiding recurring business closures due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the Sweetwater County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center’s (EOC) Unified Command Team today announced that they have submitted two variances to the state for review.
Approved this afternoon by County Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon, the first variance addresses “restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses and other similar places for public accommodation offering food and beverage for on-premises consumption” as well as “bars, taverns, brewpubs, etc.” The second includes religious services and churches hosting in-person gatherings.
Both variances include a list of guidelines, recommendations, and requirements that these businesses and organizations must comply with in order to safely reopen their doors to customers, patrons, and parishioners in a way that minimizes the risk of transmitting or spreading the COVID-19 disease here in Sweetwater County.
Similar variances have been approved in other counties with smaller populations and a higher total number of lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.
With both proposed variances now approved by Stachon and submitted to State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist for review, while an exact timeline is unclear, all indications from state officials are that Dr. Harrist and her team are working diligently to review all variances submitted by counties to the state in a timely manner with turnaround time, in some cases, of only a few days.
“We hope to open in stages so that we can move forward with measured momentum and hold in place as needed,” said EOC Deputy Incident Commander and Rock Springs Fire Department Chief Jim Wamsley. “No one knows if we are going to encounter a sudden surge or spike in new cases. What we do know is that, fortunately, we have only had one new lab-confirmed positive case in 20 days. While we must act carefully and responsibly in our approach so that we don’t overwhelm our hospital or healthcare system, we also want to do everything we can to try to get people back to work, save our small businesses and restore our local economy.”