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After school reopens, Torrington high schooler tests positive for coronavirus
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After school reopens, Torrington high schooler tests positive for coronavirus

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Coronavirus

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

Days after school reopened in Torrington last week, a high school student tested positive for the coronavirus after attending classes, a Goshen County administrator said, though it’s not believed the student contracted the virus at school.

The case is one of the first times — if not the first — the virus has been identified within a school. Torrington High School reopened on Aug. 18, and the student attended at least that day of class. Goshen County School District Superintendent Ryan Kramer said the student left school one day last week — though he wasn’t sure which day — and developed symptoms at home. He did not return for the duration of the school’s first week back. The student was tested, and the sample was confirmed positive over the weekend.

Kramer said his understanding from health officials is that the student wasn’t exposed to the virus from within the high school. The Goshen County health department declined to comment. The state Department of Education said it wasn’t aware of the positive case in Torrington but said notification was required by the state’s reopening guidelines.

Education Department spokeswoman Linda Finnerty said the agency wasn’t aware of any positive cases within a Wyoming school, which have begun to reopen in recent days for the first time since mid-March.

Kramer said health officials are currently working through followup work related to the high school case. He said students or staff who were in close contact with the patient were being contacted. He said he wasn’t aware of any staff or students who have since been tested. Kramer declined to provide an update on the ill student’s condition.

He said that the district didn’t plan on closing the school, nor would it change up its preventative measures, which Kramer said are “suitable.” Those efforts include requirements that students and staff wear masks when they’re in close proximity, changes to the school schedule, hallways are “one way” — meaning students can only travel in one direction down them — and staff frequently deep clean various parts of the school.

Earlier this month, the reopening of a Worland elementary school was delayed after two staff members tested positive for the virus and 10 more were quarantined. In a letter to district officials there, educators accused the district of creating a reopening plan without consulting more staff. The education association also asked that school be delayed until after Labor Day. Kramer said he knew some districts had positive cases associated with summer school but that he wasn’t aware of any infections among student or staff now that schools have reopened.

In Cheyenne, a staffer with Laramie County School District No. 1 tested positive for the virus previously, a spokeswoman said. Two subsequent tests have been negative, the district said in a press release, but “out of an abundance of caution, students who were exposed to this person have been contacted.” Cheyenne students will begin class next week.

Schools across the state have started welcoming students back into their buildings for the first time since mid-March, when schools were closed and then later moved to an entirely online format. Not all districts will have in-person instruction off the bat — four Fremont County districts will continue with online-only teaching until at least mid-October. The county — and the Wind River Reservation, where the districts are based — has been especially hard hit by the virus.

As has been the case in other states, there has been no order or public pressure from state leadership — by neither Gov. Mark Gordon nor state Superintendent Jillian Balow — for schools to immediately begin in-person instruction this fall. Balow told the Star-Tribune earlier this month that individual school boards are empowered to make decisions on reopening for themselves.

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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