Harrist: COVID cases will continue, but not necessarily from schools - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Harrist: COVID cases will continue, but not necessarily from schools

Wyoming State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist. (Wyoming PBS, Youtube)

CASPER, Wyo. – Wyoming’s health officer says COVID cases in the state will continue through the fall, but she doesn’t believe they’ll be related to school openings.

“I did say last week that I do expect there will be some cases among students and school staff over time, but I wouldn’t say that I expect an overall increase that is directly caused by or connected to schools,” said Alexia Harrist, Wyoming State Health Officer and State Epidemiologist during a live briefing with Governor Mark Gordon on Wednesday afternoon.

“The procedures that we’ve put in to place are meant to prevent that from happening,” she said.

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Harrist said she believes if health protocols are followed that cases should remain low, citing the few cases of breakouts in daycares and summer activities such as camps and youth baseball.

“Within the schools there are plans to keep students and staff safe,” she said, as well as protocols to limit spread if they do occur.

She said COVID is still a “possibility and a concern” and will be monitored closely. She also mentioned the possibility of students and staff being exposed to the virus outside of the school, adding the importance of masks, distancing and hygiene within the community as a whole.

Some states are experiencing severe outbreaks as schools reopen for the season. A county in Georgia has quarantined 1,156 students after starting in-school learning last week after 70 students and staff tested positive for COVID.

In a story published by WyoFile yesterday, a number of students and teachers are uneasy about the move.

“Teachers worry that administrators didn’t take their concerns into account, aren’t requiring stringent enough mask use and are relying on parents’ assessments of students’ health, said Grady Hutcherson, president of the association,” according to WyoFile. “There aren’t nurses in each school, and teachers are being overworked and not provided with appropriate protective equipment, he said.”

During the briefing, Governor Gordon said the state was monitoring the situation around the country as other districts open.

However, earlier on Wednesday the governor announced adjusted health orders for outdoor public gatherings, allowing gatherings of half a venue’s capacity, up to 1,000 people. The action was taken with fall sports in mind, he said.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Billow said during the briefing that “in-person instruction looks different than it did before we went to remote education last spring.”

Billow said health orders require that students and staff remain socially distanced, and to wear masks when that’s not possible.

“As I review plans I’ll note that most school districts are working diligently to reconfigure school space, and make sure that students can social distance for most of the day and for as many activities as possible.”

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: covid@cnchd.org

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.