Wyoming Rep. Scott Clem [R-Campbell County] is calling for a special session of the Wyoming Legislature to deal with issues related to the coronavirus.
Before anything else you read from me I want you to know this: I’m praying for you. I’m praying that God would grant you tremendous wisdom, and that he would give you strength and broad shoulders as you bear up under incredible burdens. You’re in the arena, and I believe God has prepared you for this moment. Anyone can offer their criticism and thoughts, and there is wisdom in hearing people out, but you alone have to live with the legacy of your decisions. I do not envy you in this difficult hour.
I am urging you to re-evaluate our present course with regard to corona virus, and to thoughtfully consider calling for a special session at a reasonable time. As to our present course, I am failing to see the end-game. Let me preface this with some facts. According to experts, 70% percent of Americans will be infected with SARS-Cov-2. It is likely that a vaccine will not be available for 12-18 months. It is a matter of when, not if, people contract this virus.
I understand the logic behind quarantines and self-isolation to flatten the curve of infected individuals. An estimated 10-20% who develop symptoms require advanced medical care. With our limited resources in the medical sector, prudent actions were necessary to limit the strain on these resources to preserve life. This obviously comes at a cost to society, the economy, and state revenues. While we do not want to lose one life to this disease, we must consider that lives are also damaged or even lost by our present efforts to slow the spread. While it may not be possible to quantify, it is conclusive that forced business closures and self-isolation will result in permanently lost jobs, bankruptcies, suicides, increased mental health conditions, increased crime, loss of liberty, a decrease in government revenues, an increase in utilization of government resources, and an increase in domestic disputes among others.
When we approach April 17th, what is the next step? It is likely we will continue to see a rise in those who are infected. Is it reasonable to believe we can continue current restrictions for another month or two? Even if we do see a decline in numbers by the 17th, we can reasonably expect more waves of infection in the future. Are we going to shut down the Wyoming economy for 4-8 weeks at a time intermittently over the next 18 months? The damage to the economy, the state, and society may be worse than the disease, all while people get the disease anyway. We must prepare to live with this disease while maximizing economic activity.
I am suggesting you develop plans to send people back to work and back to school, while directing state resources to bolster our medical community as we deal with the influx of those who need care. This could include funding for additional field hospitals, the purchase of medical equipment and PPE, or the manufacturing of such. We need increased medical personnel. This could come through temporary rule changes or legislation that would allow medical students, nurses, CNA’s, retired physicians, and volunteers to care for those who are sick. Along with this is the need to test, track and quarantine infected individuals, while healthy individuals return to normal activities.
Some of this may require a special session, and there are other good reasons to hold a special session. I strongly believe we need to pass a capital construction bill to help drive our state economy. We need options now for businesses so they’re not paying increased costs to the state for being forced to shut down. We need state incentives to businesses who will agree not to lay off workers. We need to address residency requirements for “snow birds” who choose to stay out of the state for more than 6 months as a result of this virus. This is in addition to any appropriations the legislature may need to do with the $1.25 billion from Congress.
We need a clear path forward. Are we going to continue our new status quo at the expense of the economy and society, while people get the virus anyway? Or are we going to move forward strategically to track, care and quarantine the sick while getting the economy going again?
Representative Scott Clem
Rep. Chuck Gray [R-Natrona County] told Townsquare Media of Cheyenne in an email on Monday evening that a special session of the legislature may be needed to deal with appropriating federal coronavirus stimulus money.
But an official with Legislative Service Office on Tuesday afternoon said there had been “no formal announcement” of a special legislative session at that point.
Either the governor or the legislature itself can convene a special session of the Wyoming Legislature. If the governor calls the session there is no set limit on the length of the session, but if the legislature calls a special session, it is limited to 20 days under Wyoming law.