By MEAD GRUVER Associated Press
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Unemployment claims in Wyoming continue to surge as the coronavirus keeps businesses closed and people at home, resulting in long phone delays for out-of-work people seeking to file for compensation.
New claims for unemployment compensation increased 24% last week, topping 4,600, on top of a more than seven-fold increase the week before, according to Wyoming Department of Workforce Services figures released Thursday.
People filing for unemployment have had to wait up to three hours to get through to the department on the phone, prompting an all-hands-on-deck response, agency spokesman Ty Stockton said.
“It’s definitely a heavy load. We’re pulling people in from other departments to help out in the unemployment area. We’ve added phone lines and are doing all sorts of things to try to reduce the wait time,” Stockton said.
The department instituted an alphabetical filing process to try to reduce the volume.
People seeking unemployment compensation should file on Mondays, Wednesday or before noon on Friday if their last names begin with the letters A through M; and on Tuesday, Thursday or after noon Friday if their last names begin with N through Z, the department announced Thursday.
Gov. Mark Gordon has ordered schools and businesses ranging from nail salons to bars and movie theaters closed through April 17 to limit spread of the virus. Other businesses including most stores remain open and Gordon has not issued a stay at home order like those in effect for Colorado, Idaho and Montana.
Wyoming as of Thursday was the only state without any deaths from the COVID-19 virus. The state had 150 cases confirmed in 16 of its 23 counties.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness and death.
In other coronavirus-related developments in Wyoming:
— The Wind River Inter-Tribal Council issued a stay-at-home order Wednesday for Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal members not engaged in work or meeting needs considered essential on the Wind River Reservation, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
— The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has canceled wild horse adoptions in Rock Springs, Powell and Riverton in April and May because of the coronavirus, the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner reports.
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