To keep schools open amid virus surge, state leaders tout mask and vaccine benefits, 'personal responsibility' - Casper, WY Oil City News
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To keep schools open amid virus surge, state leaders tout mask and vaccine benefits, ‘personal responsibility’

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — With another school year set to begin amid a statewide surge in COVID-19, Wyoming leaders say it will take a collaborative effort among parents, students, and school personnel to keep safe, in-person learning possible.

A release Monday from the Wyoming Department of Health includes statements from the governor, state health officer, and state school’s superintendent “describing priorities and expectations for students, staff and families.”

While there will be no mask or vaccine mandates, the release says that both measures reduce the need for quarantines, minimizing impacts to the community and economy. 

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“There is no question most students benefit from in-person learning,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the WDH. “We made keeping schools open a priority last year and are doing so again.”

“The good news is we now have free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which are readily available across Wyoming and are authorized for anyone 12 and older,” Harrist said.

Harrist said that those who are fully vaccinated and identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine, “which can be helpful in the school setting.” 

Additionally, the WDH says that “when someone is found to have COVID-19 and both that person and anyone who is identified as a close contact were wearing masks at the time of exposure, quarantine is not necessary.”

“Wyoming proved over and over during the last school year that in-person instruction and extracurricular activities can occur safely,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “I am so proud of the example we have set — it has been truly exceptional.”

“Every community has the expertise, the resources and the commitment to make excellent decisions that ensure we have another successful school year,” Balow added.

Governor Mark Gordon reiterated that personal responsibility is essential. 

“Everyone cares deeply and wants to ensure that the year is a success. I ask that we show respect and kindness to one another as we navigate some really tough decisions. We should always remember to treat others as we would like to be treated.”

Details about what parents can expect if school students test positive or are quarantined can be found on the WDH website and are also being provided to all Wyoming school districts.

From the WDH:

  • Detailed guidance for schools from the CDC is available here.
  • Convenient ways to find where to get COVID-19 vaccines include:
    • Visiting or online to search and find vaccine sites.
    • Texting your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX) or 822862 (VACUNA) to find up to three nearby locations that have vaccines available.
    •  Calling the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 for phone-based help.

Further information from WDH about vaccination in Wyoming can be found here.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.