By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
In a reverse of a decision made less than one month ago, the board of Wyoming’s largest school district is considering implementing a mask mandate.
Laramie County School District 1, which encompasses Cheyenne, officials will discuss the changing health situation in the county and will consider a potential mask mandate during a special meeting on Wednesday night, not even one month after the board decided to recommend but not require masks.
The board will meet virtually at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the mandate.
As of now, students are recommended to wear masks when they can’t be distanced a certain amount (6 feet during athletics and activities, 4 feet when seated in the lunchroom and 3 feet when in the classroom). They will be required to wear masks while on school buses, which is a federal mandate.
According to the district’s COVID dashboard, there have been 162 confirmed cases in the district since Aug. 18, about one week before school started for the fall. As of Tuesday, the district had 12 active staff cases and 61 active student cases.
Of those 162 confirmed cases, more than 130 of them have been in students, almost a completely even split between students in kindergarten through sixth grades (most of whom can’t be vaccinated due to the Pfizer vaccine only being available to children 12 and older) and students in seventh through 12th grades.
Seventeen active COVID cases were confirmed in the district on Tuesday, 14 of which were students.
As of Tuesday, Laramie County had 647 active COVID cases, second only to Natrona County’s 961 cases, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. Only about 38% of the county had been vaccinated, a total of 37,725 residents.
Cheyenne also had the most COVID hospitalizations, with 40 patients at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center as of Friday, according to the state hospitalization tracker.
Other school districts across the state, including Teton, Sheridan, Albany and Goshen counties, have implemented mask mandates in the last two weeks due to rising cases both among their students and across the state.
Discussions about a mask requirement in LCSD1 grew heated during the board of trustees meeting in mid-August, with some people even calling school officials “criminals” and “child abusers.” Some people were even harassed by fellow audience members for supporting a mask requirement.
Gov. Mark Gordon has repeatedly said he will not implement a second statewide mask mandate, saying those decision are better left to local leaders.