Not all Republican governors share President Donald Trump's enthusiasm for reopening their states as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.
Trump falsely claimed the authority to force states to ease social distancing mandates, but GOP governors don't seem ready to lift stay-at-home orders until testing is more widely available and the number of COVID-19 cases goes down, reported The Daily Beast.
“Gov. [Mark] Gordon is not focused on being one of the first states to ‘re-open,’” said a spokesman for Wyoming's governor.
Gordon's office acknowledged "a lack of available testing supplies" complicated efforts to restart the economy, although the governor never even issued a stay-at-home order for his state.
“If Wyoming does not proceed carefully, and in alignment with our neighbors, we open up the possibility of our state being overrun with new cases being introduced from neighboring states where the virus is more prevalent,” Gordon’s office said.
Public health experts say states cannot safely reopen until they can provide millions more diagnostic tests and antibody tests, and boost the number of health care workers and conduct meticulous contact tracing of anyone who might have the coronavirus.
“They are the basic requirements to ensure the safety of citizens and health-care workers as we slowly step out of lockdown/shelter in place orders,” said Dr. Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer for Healix International. "[Without] the ability for widespread screening of all people with symptoms — and then the ability to contact trace and test all those contacts — then there is every possibility that there will be another surge, leading to a cluster of cases requiring further lockdown measures.”
Florida and Texas were slow to implement aggressive social distancing measures, and they're already announcing the reopening of public spaces like parks and beaches -- but public health experts say reopening too soon would squander the weeks already spent in lockdown.
“We have a very large country, and the dynamics of the epidemic are going to differ based on a lot of factors — connectivity between citizens and activity between communities,” said Dr. David Larsen, an associate professor in the Department of Public Health at Syracuse University. “It makes sense to have a locally tailored approach.”
Montana state Sen. Al Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon who's seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination, believes his state is ready to gradually reopen, and he called on hospitals to resume elective treatments and high schools to reintroduce seniors and special education students, and then phase in other grades.
“We'll probably be the first state that's fully open,” Olszewski said, "and I think that we can be fully open by the end of the summer.”
Olszewski took part in a rally Sunday calling on Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to reopen Montana, but he admitted the state might "have to put the brakes on" if additional outbreaks occur.
Republicans are divided on reopening Wyoming, where the governor is taking a cautious approach while power players such as GOP donor Foster Friess are pushing to be one of the first states to restart the economy.
“Wyoming is much like South Dakota, which under leadership of a true American Patriot, Kristi Noem, was pretty much open from the beginning,” Friess told The Daily Beast. “Wyoming was into social distancing before it was popular, so it’s no surprise it’ll be one of the first to reopen.”
Dr. Mark Rupp, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Nebraska, said rural states like his may be able to reopen sooner than more densely populated states, but he cautioned that they still needed widespread testing and contact tracing to do so safely.
“Small towns in Nebraska are not immune from this,” Rupp said. “This infection can rip right through a small town or manufacturing plant, just as it does in a big city.”