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Natrona County

Wyoming Health Dept: Starting Friday, Masks Will Be Optional in Casper Schools

in News/Coronavirus/Education

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the waning days of the school year, Casper schools have been granted a variance from the state’s public school mask mandate by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Officials with Natrona County School District No. 1 requested the variance on Monday and it was approved Thursday. As of Friday, masks will be optional for all students, staff and school visitors while on district premises.

Face coverings must still be worn on all district transportation service vehicles, which is a federal order for all schools.

All of the schools will continue to have a masking requirement in and around a designated nursing station.

“Bullying, intimidation, shaming, or harassment of any kind by any individual regarding a person’s choice to wear or not wear a face covering will NOT be tolerated,” the district said in an announcement Thursday.

Students and staff will also be required to wear a mask or face covering while visiting another school or event outside of the district if they are asked to do so.

This is the largest school district in the state to receive a mask variance, following in the footsteps of other Wyoming school districts such as Sweetwater, Goshen and Park counties. Most have reported success from this move, but around 100 people recently had to be quarantined in Sheridan County following the removal of their mask policy.

Natrona County had 25 active coronavirus cases as of Thursday.

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Natrona Health Officer Urges Vaccinations; Says Masking Is Reason For Covid Improvement

in News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

There is some good news concerning the ongoing coronavirus in pandemic, according to Natrona County’s health officer.

Dr. Mark Dowell, in his most recent video message posted to social media, expressed some excitement about developments in coronavirus treatment and prevention.

“The message today is things are looking brighter. The more all of us do right now to prevent the spread of the virus to follow the social distancing and the masking and get the vaccine, the better the outlook for the summer and fall,” he said. “Things are looking up.”

Dowell used his latest address to Natrona County residents to discuss the coronavirus variant that’s been found in Wyoming, county hospitalizations and the coronavirus vaccine.

“We’re maintaining low levels in the hospital, at around 11 to 15 patients at any one time,” Dowell said. “Our ICU has few, if no, patients with COVID right now, which has incredibly improved due to the community masking up and doing their job. For that, I applaud you completely.”

He noted that the coronavirus variant found in Teton County isn’t more aggressive, just more contagious than the original variant.

He added that as long as people continue to wash their hands, wear masks and properly social distance, there should be no major cause for concern.

Next, Dowell stated that people who were elderly should get the vaccine once it’s available in their area

While Natrona County ran out of the vaccine late last week, Dowell said this was a good situation, as it meant elderly residents “stepped up to the plate” to get their first dosages.

“What I really want to do is open this up to those of you that are 60 to 70, especially if you’ve got medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, things like that. You’re the people that really need the vaccine.”

While Dowell knew some people still were hesitant to get the vaccine, he noted that many of his friends and patients have received it, experiencing few to no side effects.

“Do the right thing,” he said.

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Natrona County Health Officer Calls For Statewide Mask Mandate

in News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Natrona County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell called for Gov. Mark Gordon and other city and county officials to create mask mandates, as coronavirus cases skyrocket in Natrona County and Wyoming.

Dowell posted an 8-minute video to his business’ Facebook page on Sunday evening, making comments about the evening’s football games.

“It was a wild week,” Dowell said in the video. “I spent a lot of time working on COVID things, doing a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out what to do with the situation.”

He noted that seven people died in Natrona County in the last week and that 60% of patients in just one nursing home in the county had the coronavirus. Hospitals across the state, but Natrona County particularly, are beginning to fill with sick patients.

Meanwhile, many medical practitioners across the state are now infected with coronavirus and many schools in the state are seeing cases in students, he said.

The massive increase of cases has opened Dowell’s eyes, he said, prompting him to call for a mask mandate from both Natrona County officials and Gordon, who has resisted implementing one. Gordon did say during a news conference on Friday that stricter coronavirus health orders were coming, but didn’t say when.

“I don’t want to make people mad. I’m not interested in taking away anyone’s rights,” Dowell said in the video. “But I’m sitting here in a health emergency watching people in this county die.”

The goal of the mask mandate is to keep businesses and schools open, he added.

Dowell is one of many county health officers across the state who have called on Gordon to implement a mandate statewide.

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