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Gordon Calls UW Water Bill Best Outcome Of Poor Options

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill allowing the University of Wyoming to develop its own water system without regulation by the city of Laramie is a poor solution to the ongoing dispute between the university and the city, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Although he signed the bill into law on Monday, Gordon said he had many reservations about it.

“My decision to sign this bill into law is simply an outgrowth of selecting the best outcome out of a suite of poor options,” he wrote in a letter to House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette.

The bill stems from a years-long debate over water used to irrigate the Jacoby Golf Course.

According to testimony during committee reviews of the bill, while Laramie allowed the university to use its water to irrigate the course for more than 50 years, the city started charging for the water in 2007 and the university is now paying almost $200,000 a year for the water.

The university developed two wells on land adjoining the golf course, but was prevented from using it to irrigate the course by a Laramie ordinance that banned water from being imported into the city’s boundaries without city approval.

The bill, House Bill 198, would allow the university to develop and use its own water without restrictions by the city.

But Gordon said the bill amounted to using legislation to address a local issue, a practice state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, referred to as “litigating through legislation.”

“I agree that compelling legal arguments were made on both sides in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “But this matter also involved the state engineer and some authority of an executive branch entity. Broadly, I am disappointed that this is the outcome in front of me today.”

He added the bill provides a solution only for the university, not other private property owners whose rights to use their water may be affected by Laramie’s ordinance.

In addition, the bill did not address the issue of whether Laramie can regulate water use within its boundaries, a responsibility he said state law gives to the state engineer, Gordon said.

“These and other questions will have to go unanswered for the time being,” he said. “I hope you will continue to look into this situation and offer solutions.”

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UW to Fully Reopen For Fall Semester After Pandemic

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

For the first time in more than a year, the University of Wyoming will be fully reopened to students, faculty and staff this fall.

Improving coronavirus infection numbers, along with vaccine availability and acceptance, have made it possible for the University of Wyoming to move forward with plans for a traditional fall semester with in-person experiences and fewer restrictions, the university announced..

The UW Board of Trustees on Thursday adopted a resolution to fully reopen the university for the fall semester as long as officials are consistent in applying health policy guidelines and state and federal health directives. This will include allowing face-to-face classes at maximum capacity, face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and other activities and events.

Originally, the board wasn’t supposed to decide on fall semester plans until June.

“What we’re seeing with infection numbers and vaccine availability and acceptance has given us a high degree of confidence that we’ll have a pre-pandemic campus environment for the fall semester,” President Ed Seidel said. “Unless there’s a dramatic, unexpected development, such as an outbreak of some new dangerous COVID variant that is resistant to the new vaccines, we’ll be back fully in person this fall.”

As of Thursday, the total number of active COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees stood at eight: four students living off-campus and four employees living off-campus.

The percentage of samples testing positive in the university’s testing program has decreased from 0.34% at the start of the spring semester to 0.06% in the last week.

Additionally, coronavirus vaccines have been made available to all UW employees and are expected to be available to all students age 18 and over in Albany County in a matter of weeks.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone, and we’re so excited that our students will be back to the traditional campus experience this fall,” Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Marsh said. “The board strongly supports a full reopening of the university and has heard loud and clear the concerns voiced by so many of our constituents throughout the state.”

Last week, the university announced that the significant decline in coronavirus cases and increasing vaccine availability prompted an adjustment to UW’s spring semester plan, allowing students and faculty the option of continuing in-person experiences throughout the semester.

Instead of asking students to leave UW’s residence halls and encouraging students to not return following UW’s abbreviated spring break from March 31-April 4, the university will maintain residential hall living as an option, as well as continue to offer student support programs and activities.

Some faculty members may continue with virtual lessons or convert to face-to-face classes through semester’s end.

Requirements for the wearing of masks, social distancing and COVID-19 testing will continue through the spring semester, including at the in-person commencement ceremonies May 14-15.

“We’re encouraged at the level of acceptance of the vaccines by members of the UW community,” Seidel said. “Whereas a month ago we weren’t sure if students would have access to vaccines until later in the summer, it’s clear now that the rollout will be much sooner than that. We’re counting on the level of vaccine acceptance to continue at a high level.”

For the fall semester, a much higher percentage of classes will be conducted face-to-face, and it is expected that distancing, gathering and testing requirements will be eased.

It’s not yet certain whether there will continue to be any requirement for face protection.

“While we will need to decide a few details later, we’re very confident in saying that students this fall can expect a much more traditional experience than we’ve been able to provide the past three semesters,” Seidel said. “In the meantime, we encourage everyone to continue following our requirements and public health guidelines, and especially to make sure they’re vaccinated, so that we can put the pandemic behind us.”

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UW Professor Helps Identify Jaguar at U.S./Mexico Border

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor has helped discover a species of jaguar not seen before in the United States near the Mexican border.

An image of the jaguar was captured recently by an Arizona graduate student and suggests habitat connectivity might remain between the southwestern U.S. and the northernmost jaguar subpopulation in Sonora, Mexico, which is more than 100 miles south of the border.

Ganesh Marin, a doctoral student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, discovered the jaguar while reviewing footage from wildlife cameras deployed as part of a research project studying mammal diversity and movements in the borderlands region.

John Koprowski, the dean of the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, is Marin’s graduate adviser and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. He is also leading the project that led to the discovery.

“This is an exciting discovery that highlights the importance of finding ways to sustain connectivity of our landscapes so that we can maintain wild and working lands in functional ecosystems today and for future generations,” Koprowski said. “The University of Wyoming and the state have a long history of working to facilitate animal movements and migration, and this new discovery, as part of a joint project by the University of Wyoming and the University of Arizona, adds to our leadership in wildlife conservation.”

In addition to jaguars, the area is rich in biodiversity and provides habitat for many other species, including ocelots, beavers and the Mexican gray wolf.

Jaguars are the largest species of big cats native to the Americas and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Historically, the animals occupied a continuous range extending from central Argentina to the southwestern U.S. states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

However, since 1900, that range has decreased due primarily to human disturbance and habitat loss, and is now believed to span an area from northern Argentina to northwestern Mexico.

By 1990, jaguars were thought to have been eliminated from the United States.

Although individual cats have been observed in areas of southern Arizona and New Mexico in recent years, the jaguar observed in the project by Marin and Koprowski — dubbed “El Bonito” — is almost certainly from the Mexican Pacific subpopulation located in the Mexican state of Sonora and is the most northern jaguar reported for Mexico.

The finding indicates the need to maintain and conserve habitat connectivity and water resources on which the animals rely.

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UW Police Mourn Loss of K9 Colleague Mulder

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming Police Department is currently mourning the loss of its K9 colleague, Mulder.

The department announced the loss of Mulder on Saturday, noting it was unexpected.

Sgt. Chad Bade told Cowboy State Daily that Mulder had recently been diagnosed with cancer and there wasn’t a firm timeline on when he might pass.

“He took a quick turn,” Bade said, adding the department ultimately decided to put Mulder to sleep to keep him from suffering.

Mulder was 10 and had worked for the police department since 2012.

He worked with his handler, Sgt. Josh Holland, as an explosives investigator, doing sweeps at various sporting events at the University of Wyoming, in the Laramie community and for events such as Cheyenne Frontier Days and the National High School Rodeo Finals.

“Mulder was kind of a ditz and in la la land, but when it came time to go to work, it was game on for him,” Bade said. “He was really well-liked in the office. Everyone loved Mulder. You had to know his personality, but he was great.”

Bade added Mulder was good friends with Enzo, his K9 that passed away back in September. Now, the department is without any K9s and Bade it is definitely not the same in the office.

“These dogs were a huge help at the games at UW, because they help put the public’s interest at ease,” Bade said. “We’re sad. We miss Mulder.”

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UW Classes Resume In Wake Of Storm That Leaves Highways Closed

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Classes at the University of Wyoming resumed Tuesday as southeastern Wyoming continued to dig out from a winter storm that left record-breaking snow depths in its wake.

Even though highways around Laramie remained closed Tuesday, classes resumed at the UW one day after the snowstorm shut down the campus Monday for both online and in-person classes.

However, the university encouraged employees who were able to work from home to do so to give UW workers extra time to dig out from the more than 18 inches of snow fell Laramie during the blizzard.

Laramie resident Sarah Froehlich said it wasn’t necessarily the amount of snow that fell that caused the worst of the problems — it was the blowing and drifting.

“On Saturday night the wind was horrible! I’ve never heard it that bad,” she said. “It kept me up that night. You could hear the snow hitting the screens and windows.”

Froehlich added that the roads in town are still drifted, except for the main streets, and added the closed roads could be keeping some businesses closed.

“I think the drifting has been the worst issue, people just can’t get out,” she said.

Although the UW was open Tuesday, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported the Laramie campus of Laramie County Community College remained closed.

Highways to the northwest, southeast and northeast were still closed as of Tuesday afternoon, and WYDOT updates warned that portions of Interstate 80 between Rawlins and the Nebraska border may not be open until sometime Wednesday.

But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the storm. 

The Albany County Emergency Management office released a notice that some ranchers are having trouble feeding their livestock, due to hay shortages or inability to access the animals because of the storm. 

The office is offering to help to anyone who may be experiencing such difficulties. 

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Cowboys Put Up a Fight, But No. 1 Seed San Diego State Survives, Wyoming Eliminated

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LAS VEGAS  – The Wyoming Cowboys took top-seeded and No. 19 San Diego State to the wire in a 69-66 loss in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Air Force Reserve MW Basketball Championship. The contest featured 14 leads changes and saw the game tied 19 different times. Wyoming finishes the season with a 14-11 overall record.

“For our guys to executive the game plan on a quick turn around with such a young group you can see us getting better, but we were just one possession short,” Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said. “We did a great job of keeping them out of the paint and making certain guys beat us, which gave us an opportunity to win. They are the benchmark of the league and it was a great test for us as a program.”

Wyoming was paced by a career-high from freshman Xavier DuSell with 21 points. He hit a career-best six threes. Junior Hunter Maldonado added 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Freshman Marcus Williams added 12 points and a team-high five assists finishing the tournament with 15 helpers. Freshman Graham Ike added 10 points and led the team with nine rebounds. The UW freshman combined for 43 of the 66 points for 65 percent of the scoring.

The Cowboys hit 12 threes on the night shooting 48 percent from behind the arc. San Diego State shot 49 percent from the field for the afternoon and went 12-of-13 from the free throw line. Wyoming held a 28-26 advantage on the glass for the night.

Both teams got off to fast starts offensively in the opening minutes of the contest for a 9-9 game in the opening four-plus minutes. The Cowboys opened 4-of-5 from the field hitting their first four shots, as the Aztecs went 4-of-6 from the field.

The Aztecs went on a 4-0 run to take an 18-14 lead on the Pokes with 12:58 left in the opening frame. DuSell hit his third triple of the game to make it a 20-19 game for San Diego State with 8:50 left in the half and then hit his fourth just over a minute later that tied the game at 22-22.

The Cowboys took their first lead of the afternoon at 29-27 on a pair of free throws from Ike. The Aztecs would battle to take the lead back with another Pulliam jumper for a 30-29 lead with 3:17 left in the frame. The Cowboys used the free throw line to take the lead back this time with two from junior Drake Jeffries for a 32-30 game with 1:39 remaining in the opening 20 minutes.

The SDSU’s Terrell Gomez added an and-one play in the closing seconds to give the San Diego State a 33-32 lead at the half, as Wyoming went without a field goal in the final 5:17 of the first half.

After the teams’ traded three pointers to open the second half and after a Pulliam jumper, sophomore Kenny Foster knocked down a three-pointer for a 38-38 game with 18 minutes remaining. The contest would once again be tied at the free throw this time from Maldonado for a 44-44 game with 13:35 on the clock.

After the Aztecs built a three-point lead at 49-46 using a 5-2 run, DuSell knocked down his fifth three-pointer followed by a three from Foster to give Wyoming a 52-49 lead with 9:39 remaining. SDSU would take a brief lead until Williams banked in a three-pointer to give Wyoming the upper hand at 55-53 at the 7:47 mark. Gomez tied the game just over a minute later for the Aztecs and later made it a two point game with 5:42 remaining.

DuSell got to his new career-high with his sixth triple for a 58-57 lead for the Pokes at the 5:20 mark, but Schakel responded with a triple to give SDSU the lead on the following possession. Ike gave Wyoming a one point lead, but a three from Gomez made it a 63-61 game in SDSU’s favor with 2:58 remaining.

Maldonado hit a step back triple at the 1:52 mark to give Wyoming a 64-63 lead, but Gomez hit free throws for a 65-64 San Diego State lead with 90 seconds remaining. That score would hold until later with the Aztecs knocking in free throws, but the Pokes had a chance late with a bucket, but fell short 69-66.

The Aztecs were led by Gomez with 20 points going 8-of-12 from the field. Pulliam and Schakel added 15 points apiece. Schakel led the team with six rebounds.

The Cowboys did not have one senior on the roster and will return every player next season.

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Cowgirls Go Dancing — Knock Off Fresno in MW Tournament Title Game

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For the time in program history, the Wyoming Cowgirls have won a postseason conference tournament as the seventh-seeded Cowgirls culminated their incredible Mountain West Tournament run by defeating No. 4 seed Fresno State, 59-56 in an all-time classic. 

The win gives Wyoming the Mountain West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will be the Cowgirls second trip the NCAAs in program history. Wyoming last made the “Big Dance” back in 2008 where it lost to Pittsburgh.

Quinn Weidemann, who was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player postgame, led the Cowgirls with 14 points and drilled four 3-pointers in the win. Weidemann also added four assists and four boards on the night.

McKinley Bradshaw was the other Cowgirl in double figures as she added 13 off the bench while Grace Ellis tied a career-high with nine points and grabbed a career-best five boards. Tommi Olson, who joined Weidemann on the All-Tournament Team, had three points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Alba Sanchez Ramos’ blocked shot of MW Player of the Year Haley Cavinder with one second remaining secured the victory for the Cowgirls. Sanchez Ramos’ final line was eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and that game-sealing block.

“I’m out of words right now,” said Head Coach Gerald Mattinson.

“The effort that they put into this and the way they’ve played during this stretch, it speaks so highly of them. Who they are and what they’ve become, the toughness that this team has shown and that they play with, it’s a credit to them.”

Both teams got out to strong starts in the contest, but Fresno State hit five of its first eight shots and had a 14-10 lead at the first quarter media timeout. After the timeout, both teams went on three-plus minute scoring droughts before finding their rhythms late in the frame, as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 22-16 after one.

After the Bulldogs built up a 24-16 lead, back-to-back hoops and a sweet assist from Bradshaw got the Cowgirls back to within one, 24-23 with seven minutes to play in the half. Out of the media timeout in the quarter, a pair of Bradshaw free throws gave Wyoming its first lead of the game, 25-24. From that point, the Cowgirls continued their big run to end the quarter, going on a 16-0 run the final 8:50 of the frame and took a 32-24 lead into the break. Fresno State scored just two points in the second quarter.

In the third, Fresno State came out looking to make a run and cut into the Wyoming lead, but the Cowgirls found their footing and led 41-33 at the media, with Ellis heading to the line to shoot one free throw. The Bulldogs would go on a run later in the frame, cutting the Wyoming lead down to 42-39. The Cowgirls would promptly score five straight to extend their lead back up before Fresno ended the quarter with a hoop to make it 47-41 Cowgirls after three complete.

A Jaye Johnson corner 3-pointer opened the scoring in the fourth and put Wyoming up 50-41. The Cowgirls called a timeout after a couple of shaky possessions offensively with 7:30 remaining in the contest and up by the same margin. Out of the timeout, the Bulldogs went on a run, outscoring the Cowgirls 9-2 over a stretch where Wyoming went without a field goal for over five minutes before a Grace Ellis layup ended the drought with UW up 54-50 with under four to play.

Bradshaw drilled a corner 3-pointer with 3:31 to go and Wyoming was back up seven, 57-50. The three-ball was followed by a Fresno State foul with 2:53 left, which led to the final media timeout of the game. Fresno State would show its mettle from there however, scoring six straight to cut the Wyoming lead down to just one with 32 seconds remaining.

Fresno had a chance to take the lead but missed a layup attempt with six seconds left and were forced to foul Ellis. Ellis went to the line and calmly knocked down both free throws to make it 59-56 with three seconds remaining. The Bulldogs took a timeout to advance the ball but Sanchez Ramos’ defensive play thwarted FSU’s final chance.

Wyoming shot 39.6 percent for the game and hit 9-of-24 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range while the Bulldogs shot 36.5 percent overall and went just 4-of-15 from beyond-the-arc. FSU outscored the Cowgirls 14-3 in points off turnovers and 32-20 in points in the paint while UW got 22 bench points and only starters scored for the Bulldogs.

“I’m happy for all of our fans, I’m happy for Tom (Burman), all of our administration and obviously the school and all of our fans. I’m just excited for everybody,” said Mattinson.

The Cowgirls now await to see who they will face at the NCAA Tournament. The Women’s NCAA Selection Show is set for Monday night at 5 p.m., Mountain Time and can be seen on ESPN.

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Three UW Students Killed, Two Injured In Weekend Car Crash

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three University of Wyoming students were killed and two were injured, one critically, in a two-car collision south of the Wyoming state line over the weekend.

The accident occurred late Saturday afternoon on U.S. Highway 287, several miles south of the Wyoming/Colorado state line, according to the university.

The students killed were: Sienna Potter, 18, a first-year student in early childhood education who attended high school outside of London but had family in Laramie; Rebecca Marley, 19, a first-year student in marketing who attended high school in Dubai and had family in The Woodlands, Texas; and William Malone, 21, a senior in computer science from Fort Collins, Colorado.

Two other UW students were injured in the crash. One was reported to be in critical condition Monday at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. The other was hospitalized in Fort Collins.

Three other UW students, traveling in a third vehicle, witnessed the accident.

“Words fail us, as they simply can’t express our sadness,” UW president Ed Seidel said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken for the families, their friends and our entire community.”

The university’s dean of students office has been in contact with all of the family members of the victims and will continue to reach out to those close to those involved in the accident.

“During what has been an extremely challenging academic year for all of us, this unspeakable loss seems to be almost more than our community can bear,” Seidel said. “As we grieve the loss of these students and seek to recover from other tragic and distressful developments in recent weeks and months, let’s do our best and pull together, support those who are suffering, and show the compassion and kindness that characterize what it means to be part of this community.”

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No Evidence Tying UW Racist Zoom Callers to Students, Community Members (So Far)

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

No evidence has been found to tie any of the callers who disrupted a University of Wyoming Black History Month video conference to the university’s students or community members, according to the university.

According to UW’s Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago, four of the five attackers involved used “virtual private networks” or VPNs located in the U.S. and Germany to hide their true locations.

The attacker who did not use a VPN service appears to have connected from a residential broadband connection on the East Coast. The UW Police Department and the FBI are continuing to investigate.

“So far, there is no forensic evidence to tie any of the attackers to UW,” Monago said. “We’re glad that is the case, but it does not reduce our outrage at this vile occurrence, nor the imperative for us to take action to address problems with racism in our community. And we commit to holding members of our campus accountable if further investigation uncovers a UW connection.”

On Feb. 15, the five people sent racist and pornographic messages during a Zoom-hosted UW event.

Apparently, the UW was one of many schools across the country to have Black History Month events targeted by this type of attack. Institutions including the University of Southern California, Washington’s Gonzaga University and Rutgers University in New Jersey have been “Zoom bombed” with similar hateful, violent words and images in recent weeks and months, the release said.

UW’s network security analyst strongly suspects that all of the attacks are related and coordinated.

Many of UW’s community of color have expressed that they feel unsafe of the campus now, Monago said, despite the fact there is no evidence the attacks originated in Laramie.

“While the racist attack appears to have come from outside the university, it understandably caused our students, employees of color and other people in our campus community to feel unsafe,” she said in her statement to students. “It brought to the forefront the existence of hate speech and racist behavior here in our own community. And it has shone a brighter light on the need for the university to address ever-increasing efforts to increase our diversity as well the existence of racism, so that we can be a welcoming, safe place for everyone, regardless of ability, age, country of origin, culture, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation or world view.”

After the incident, University President Ed Seidel, along with university trustees, vice presidents, deans and department directors on Wednesday released a statement condemning the incident.

“The First Amendment may allow expression that is reprehensible, but we have a responsibility to answer it,” it said. “Make no mistake, the words and images to which the Zoom discussion participants were subjected are unacceptable and absolutely contrary to the values of our university. UW immediately began working with local law enforcement to address this matter.”

The statement also said the university would use the technology available to it to block such attacks in the future

However, during a listening session held by the UW’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee on Black Lives Matter and Systemic Racism, many of the 50 or so participants complained that the university’s initial statement about the incident was not strong enough and made it clear UW could do more.

“I took these concerns to heart and committed to do better, and so do others working at UW,” Monago said.

On Friday, Monago met with the UW marketing and communications team members, who are going to assist her office with developing a plan to better communicate diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion information and the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence.

“In closing, all I have left to say is that we see you, we hear you, and we commit to doing better,” Monago said.

Gov. Mark Gordon even commented on the Zoom attack last week in a statement.

“I am saddened and angered that anyone would invade a constructive educational moment with such vile sentiments of hate, and adamantly condemn these atrocious actions,” the governor said.

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University of Wyoming Make Early Plans for Fall Semester

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is planning for a fall semester with more in-person classes and fewer coronavirus-related restrictions, but this is contingent upon vaccine availability and acceptance, along with continued downward trends in virus infection numbers.

UW faculty, staff members and students living in residence halls are slated to be part of the group to be vaccinated under phase 1C group of the Wyoming Department of Health’s guidelines, so university leaders are optimistic for a more traditional semester this fall.

Additionally, there are indications all students may have access to the vaccine by late summer.

“Much could change between now and the start of the fall semester, including transmission of new variants of the virus and other unforeseen developments. However, we see great reason for optimism that we’ll have much more of a pre-pandemic campus environment this fall,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “Of course, it all hinges on the university community and the state adhering to public health guidelines to continue bringing down infection numbers and, especially, receiving the vaccine as soon as possible. At this point, we’re not requiring faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated, but significant voluntary vaccination will be essential for our plan to work.”

Under the plan, UW faculty and staff members would need to have access to the vaccine at least six weeks ahead of the scheduled Aug. 23 start of the fall semester in order for the semester to proceed with face-to-face classes at maximum capacity.

Additionally, relaxation of Wyoming Department of Health rules and guidelines regarding gatherings and classroom capacity will be necessary.

At this point, at least 70% of the UW community will need to be vaccinated to achieve necessary levels of immunity for the vaccine to have efficacy.

University leaders expect to have enough information on those matters in early June to make a final determination.

UW is collaborating with Albany County Public Health and Ivinson Memorial Hospital to administer vaccines to county residents who are in categories 1-3 of the phase 1B priority schedule.

 It’s not yet known when Albany County will begin phase 1C, though.

All students are encouraged to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, based on their current locations.

As of Thursday, the total number of active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees stood at 15: 11 students living off-campus, two students living on-campus and two employees living off-campus.

The university is administering a rigorous testing program this spring semester for those spending time on campus, with undergraduates being tested twice per week and faculty, staff and graduate students being tested once per week.

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