Gordon says he won’t issue new mask mandate in Wyoming or in schools

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CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s office said on Wednesday that the governor will not be issuing a new mask mandate in the state, nor will he issue a mandate that school districts require masks as the school year resumes.

While State Health Officer and State Epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist reported Wednesday that Wyoming has been seeing “a sharp increase” in COVID cases across much of the state, Gordon’s office said the governor wants to leave it up to local school districts to determine COVID-related policies.

“Wyoming was first in the nation in having a safe and successful in-person school year last year,” Gordon said in a Wednesday press release. “My focus is on supporting local school boards as they take into account conditions in their community and work to assure [that] students learn safely this year, too.” 

The WDH said Wednesday that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in public spaces in areas that are experiencing moderate to high COVID transmission levels. That is the case in 15 of 23 Wyoming counties.

The WDH said that most new COVID cases are linked to the Delta variant of the virus and that the majority of people contracting COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.

While Gordon won’t implement a mask mandate, he said that the “we need to follow and respect the science.”

“The Governor and First Lady have both been vaccinated and encourage eligible Wyomingites to choose to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their neighbors and their families,” the governor’s office said. “The Wyoming Department of Health recently reported that among 300 persons infected by COVID-19 who were recently hospitalized, nearly 94 percent were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The number of new COVID-19 vaccinations has been increasing during July as the Delta variant of the virus has become dominant in the state.”

Gordon will work with both the Wyoming Department of Education and the Wyoming Department of Health as the school year approaches to help “ensure districts are prepared to respond to changes in local conditions with equipment, testing and expertise.”

“As our hospitals continue to see more COVID-19 hospitalizations, and as long-term and child care facilities are forced to close due to COVID-19 infections, it is time to remember all the things we learned last year and consider getting vaccinated as the most effective way to protect yourself against severe illness,” Gordon said, “and let us not forget the Wyoming way and work to be kind to one another.”

Gordon’s office said that the governor supports rights of local businesses to “operate in the manner they deem best.”

“In May, the Governor issued a directive that prevents state agencies, boards and commissions from requiring ‘vaccine passports’ to access state spaces and state services,” Gordon’s office said. “That directive remains in place. It encourages other entities, including local governments and private businesses, not to impose vaccine mandates.”