In the first week of school, 120 students and 26 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 across the Natrona County School District, while an additional 339 students and 31 staff have quarantined due to being in close contact with people that tested positive.

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The district's website, which updates every two weeks, lists the number of positive cases and quarantines that have taken place from the start of the school year on September 1 to September 10.

While the cases are spread across several schools in the district, Kelly Walsh High School, Dean Morgan Middle School, and Natrona County High School had the most students test positive at 19, 17, and 14 respectively.

The district only mandates masks on school buses based on a federal executive order, while it is optional in all other settings due to the mandate being removed in May after the district got an exemption from the health department.

Tanya Southerland, director of Public Relations for the Natrona County School District, said because there are no local, state, or federal guidelines, they are following their own guidelines, while waiting for more information from President Joe Biden's COVID-19 Action Plan.

The most recent update to Biden's plan, which was released on Thursday and denounced by governor Mark Gordon and several Wyoming politicians, requires all employers of 100 people or more have their employees vaccinated or get tested weekly, or receive fines from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Southerland said the district does not keep track of when or if staff members get the vaccine, so she doesn't know how many are or aren't vaccinated.

Hailey Bloom, public information officer with the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, said last year there wasn't as much quarantining done because of a mask mandate, which made it so both someone who is positive and anyone they interacted with were masked, making it less likely for COVID to have spread.

Bloom said due to the high test positivity rate, which on September 10 was at around 28%, compared to 22.5% two days prior, there are probably more cases of COVID-19 in the community than the amount of positive tests would suggest.

"[The positivity rate is] pretty high unfortunately. When we're seeing low denominators, a low number of people actually getting tested, but a vast majority are testing positive, that's going to send that positivity number sky high. That tells us that there's quite a bit of active virus in the community, whether or not we may be catching it or not."

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