Gordon does not repeat a mask mandate; local control best option

By Ellen Fike and Tom Ninnemann, Cowboy State Daily

(This story originally appeared on Cowboy State Daily)

Local government officials are the best guides when it comes to making decisions about the coronavirus in Wyoming, Governor Mark Gordon told a group in Jackson on Tuesday.

Gordon appeared at the Teton County Library on Tuesday as part of the library’s Teton County Centennial series, where he began his commentary on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the state had more than 3,400 active cases and 195 people were hospitalized for treatment.

However, Gordon has persistently refused to implement a second statewide mandate for the use of face masks, telling his audience in Jackson on Tuesday that he felt it was better to let local governments, rather than his administration, decide like theirs Communities should deal with the pandemic.

“We don’t believe that mandates work from above,” he said. “We think that local control, local government, is the nexus. These are locally elected people, these are your communities. You can assess the circumstances at the local level in a way that we cannot find from above. “

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He noted that his office will work to ensure the state’s communities have adequate supplies of vaccines, personal protective equipment, and COVID testing.

Currently, only Teton County has implemented a statewide mask mandate, which came late last week after a surge in cases in both the county and the state.

Jackson’s mandate was extended by the Jackson City Council in a special session Monday through December. The Teton County Board of Commissioners will meet later this week to discuss extending the mandate in the county outside of Jackson.

Gordon said that while he respected Wyoming residents’ freedom of choice, he also said residents know what to do to slow the spread of the virus – wash their hands, wear face masks, and practice social distancing.

“In this environment, I think it is extremely important that we recognize that we are a community and what we do together can be very effective in defeating the virus,” he said.

Gordon also addressed the record tourism year in northwest Wyoming, saying the state is looking for ways to control visitor numbers without requiring a permit system to limit the number of visitors to an area.

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“I think there are a few ways we can manage the number of visitors that come through Jackson, come through our parks, and do so without imposing a permit system,” he said. “Do it in such a way that the freedom of visitors is not restricted.”

If visitors can be persuaded to see areas other than Jackson and Yellowstone National Park, it could reduce the stress on those areas, Gordon said.

“So if people want to come and see the oldest national park, maybe they can stop on their way and see, maybe a hot spring, maybe some of the wonderful soft terrain we see elsewhere in the state,” he said. “We have to encourage that. We need to be able to make sure that visitors see how friendly the Wyoming people are and how great our communities are. “

The governor also commented on the drought that hit the west that year, noting the first time water was drawn from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to serve downstream users of the Colorado River system.

“For the first time, Flaming Gorge levels will go down this year and will likely go down further next year if we don’t reload snow, rain, etc.,” he said.

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