By Robert Davis, The Center Square
As many students in the Wyoming return to school this week, Gov. Mark Gordon and state health officials reiterated their intent to avoid COVID-19 school closings at all costs.
“Our goal for this school year is to keep our schools open and our students learning safely in-person, in the classroom,” Gordon said in a statement Monday. “Today we want to announce our joint plan put in place to achieve this. We recognize it will take a collaborative effort from Wyoming school personnel, students and families to be successful.”
The statement comes at a critical time in Wyoming’s response to COVID-19. According to data from the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), the state added 724 COVID-19 cases on Monday. Most of the cases are in Laramie and Natrona counties.
Meanwhile, the data shows Wyomingites under the age of 30 are more likely to contract the disease than other age groups.
Even though Gov. Gordon has resisted implementing a statewide mask mandate for schools, he said Wyomingites share a “personal responsibility” to get vaccinated.
“Everyone cares deeply and wants to ensure that the year is a success,” Gordon added. “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.”
State public health officials said they will be “promoting vaccination” for staff, students and their families throughout the school year to boost the state’s vaccination rate. As of Monday, only 34.8% of the state’s residents have been vaccinated, according to WDH data.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, Wyoming’s state epidemiologist, said getting vaccinated is the best way communities can ensure “schools stay open and vibrant as well as help keep students and their teachers in the classroom.”