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Wyoming keeps two remaining COVID-19 health orders in place
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Wyoming keeps two remaining COVID-19 health orders in place

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Back to school

Students exit Natrona County High School at the end of the first day back to school in September. The state of Wyoming has extended a public health order requiring masks in schools. 

Wyoming’s two remaining statewide public health orders will remain in place for at least two more weeks, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

One of the orders relates to mask and social distancing requirements at educational institutions. The other places limits on the size of indoor events.

The health orders will remain in effect until April 30.

The state this spring has been walking back restrictions put into place to limit the spread of COVID-19, most notably when Gov. Mark Gordon last month announced the expiration of Wyoming’s mask order on March 16. While cases and hospitalizations have declined dramatically from last fall’s surge, new coronavirus variants have emerged and numbers have largely stagnated over the last month.

Governors are lifting mask mandates at a time health officials are warning about becoming complacent as new COVID variants are being detected in the U.S. Source by: Stringr

“While we continue to see stable case numbers and hospitalizations in most areas of the state, our overall progress seems to have plateaued,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said in a statement. “COVID-19 remains a threat for now, with cases growing in other states.”

More than 175,000 people in Wyoming have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But figures show Wyoming ranks in the bottom 10 states for that metric, according to data kept by the New York Times. Wyoming had been an early national leader, maintaining a spot in the top half of states for vaccine distribution up until a few weeks ago.

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While the state’s order requires face masks in K-12 schools, at least 10 school districts have already requested and received state approval for exemptions to the mask requirement. Monday night, the Natrona County School District board of trustees agreed to look into requesting an exception after a number of parents spoke in favor of lifting the requirement.

Trustees agreed to take action if the state did not lift the K-12 mask requirement this week. District officials now plan to meet with county health officials to gauge their support for removing the mask mandate.

The 10 districts that have been approved to lift the mask requirement all serve fewer than 2,000 students. The majority serve fewer than 1,000. Natrona County has the second-largest district in the state, serving just under 13,000 students.

One district, Uinta 6, has requested an exception but has not yet been approved because the health department is monitoring COVID-19 cases in that county, according to Wyoming Department of Health spokesperson Kim Deti.

“Every exception that has been approved has involved a county with green metrics according to our measures at the time the exceptions were approved and so far they’ve been maintaining acceptable metrics,” Deti added.

Natrona County is listed in the light green — or second best — category for 14-day transmission indicators.

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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

Editor

Joshua Wolfson joined the Star-Tribune in 2007, covering crime and health before taking over the arts section in 2013. He also served as managing editor before being named editor in June 2017. He lives in Casper with his wife and their two kids.

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