Best of the West: Entrepreneurship in the era of COVID-19; real estate boom in Wyoming; increasing protections for wildland firefighters

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on the latest news in the West. Here are the top stories for the week starting June 15, 2020. Photo courtesy of Dan Boyce/CPR News.

Starting Small: While most small businesses are struggling in the current economic climate, one entrepreneur from Colorado Springs has managed to get her operation off the ground, despite the difficult times. Moonbeam Clothiers, a clothing boutique specializing in ethically sourced products, was opened by 26-year-old Rebecca Moon on May 29. According to Colorado Public Radio, the business had originally circled March 20 for its grand opening, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced Moon to postpone. Nevertheless, she perserved, achieving enough initial sales to cover the first month of her store’s lease. Read more about Moon’s story.

Real Estate: Thanks to its small population, low taxes, and picturesque landscape, Wyoming has seen a remarkable surge in its real estate market in recent months, WyoFile reports. “During the official quarantine, certainly we did get a lot of phone calls — some of them attributed to people saying ‘I want to get out of the big city and [move] to wide-open Wyoming,’” said Ty Pedersen, president of the Northwest Wyoming Board of Realtors and a Cody real estate agent. “There’s a prediction we will start to see more of that. The feeling is there’s going to be a little resurgence here for Wyoming.” Here’s what’s attracting people to the Equality State.

Firefighting Precautions: Wildland firefighting protocols are being altered in order to protect firefighters from the COVID-19 virus. To start, all seasonal workers are quarantined for 14 days upon hiring, according to Montana Public Radio. Subsequently, firefighters are required to complete daily health checks, maintain proper social distancing, and communicate virtually whenever possible. "Fire camps are kind of a special concern because they’re famous for being a breeding ground for contagion,” said Greg Poncin of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. “It’s hard to be in a fire camp under any circumstances and not come away with the fire camp crud." Discover how different agencies are preparing for wildfire season across the West.

Exercise Pods: In order to keep their clientele safe, Inspire South Bay Fitness, located in Redondo Beach, California, has developed special “exercise pods” (pictured) to help gymgoers socially distance, the Idaho Statesman reports. Crafted by hanging shower curtains from PVC pipe frames, the pods stand about 10 feet tall and six feet wide, complete with sanitizing wipes and a place for customers to put their face masks and other belongings. Upon entering the facility, owner Peet Sapsin explains that everyone will be required to sanitize their hands, get their temperature checked, and then report to an assigned cubicle before being allowed to remove their mask. Learn more about the precautions being taken by workout facilities as they reopen their doors to the public.

Food Security: Disruptions in Hawaii’s food supply triggered by COVID-19 have highlighted the need for a strengthening of the island’s food security, according to Hawaii Public Radio. Currently, Hawaii imports almost 90% of everything it eats, which can be problematic during times of supply chain interruption, as has been experienced over recent months. To remedy this issue going forward, fisherman and agricultural producers are looking to get back to the island’s roots of self-sustainability. “We know economic recovery is going to be different from a Hawaiian perspective,” said Sylvia Hussey, CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. “So, investing in our community, these farmers, ranchers and their communities will also help shape what economic recovery looks like in our lens.” Find out more.

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