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Wyoming mask mandate backed by GOP lawmakers goes into effect

Wyoming mask mandate backed by GOP lawmakers goes into effect
© Greg Nash

Wyoming's statewide mask mandate went into effect on Wednesday, with Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 The Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE (R) and Wyoming’s two U.S. senators backing the effort as a way to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Cheney and GOP Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoBiden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Senate confirms former Michigan governor Granholm as Energy secretary MORE and Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLummis adopts 'laser eyes' meme touting Bitcoin Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes With Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds MORE released a joint statement this week expressing support for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s (R) mask mandate for indoor public spaces. The lawmakers called the coronavirus “a real and significant threat.”

“Governor Gordon is committed to protecting Wyoming and his health orders reflect that,” the Wyoming lawmakers said. “We’ve lost 280 people in Wyoming and more than 280,000 Americans to this virus so far.”

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“It’s not a cure-all, but wearing a mask and practicing social distancing goes a long way in stopping the spread,” the Republicans said. “These actions will help protect our family, friends and neighbors while still allowing us to keep our state open and working.”

Gordon announced the mask mandate, as well as restrictions on gatherings and reduced hours for businesses, on Monday, citing the increasing coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths in the state. The new coronavirus restrictions will be in place from Wednesday through Jan. 8.

“Our state and those surrounding us are facing a hospital capacity crisis that now compels us to take additional action,” the governor said in a statement, adding, “Too many people have died.”

“Science tells us limiting gatherings of groups and using face coverings are effective in slowing transmission of this virus,” he added. “With these actions we can avoid taking the more drastic step of closing schools and businesses.”

Most indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people instead of 25, although indoor venues can hold up to 100 people, or 25 percent capacity, and outdoor venues can hold up to 250 people, or 50 percent capacity. Bars, restaurants and cafes are banned from serving in-person customers between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to Wyoming News.

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The counties are permitted to opt out of state requirements if their numbers for newly reported cases and their local positivity rate reach safer levels based on White House recommendations.

The mask requirement comes as local officials, who are mostly Republican, decline to enforce coronavirus restrictions.

Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle and Sweetwater County Attorney Dan Erramouspe declared the mask mandate in Wyoming “unenforceable” shortly after it was announced, K2 Radio reported.

But Cheney has previously applauded mask wearing in June, tweeting a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a mask with the caption “#realmenwearmasks.”

Wyoming has seen a clear rise in coronavirus hospitalizations throughout November, with a very slight dip in December. Currently, 203 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the state, according to The COVID Tracking Project

The state saw 128 COVID-19 deaths in November, more than any other month since the beginning of the pandemic. In total, Wyoming has confirmed 32,555 COVID-19 cases and 280 deaths since the pandemic started.