Gordon Emphasizes Keeping Schools Open, While Encouraging Vaccinations
According to a press release by Governor Mark Gordon, Wyoming plans to keep schools open as the new year begins, while also dealing with COVID-19.
"Our goal for this school year is to keep our schools open and our students learning safely in-person, in the classroom. Today we want to announce our joint plan put in place to achieve this. We recognize it will take a collaborative effort from Wyoming school personnel, students and families to be successful."
Kim Deti, Public Information Officer for the Wyoming Department of Health, said, in regards to adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations for students K-12, which currently include vaccines for diseases like Chickenpox and Hepatitis B, there are no plans to add COVID-19 vaccine requirements to that list.
When asked about why the decision was made to not add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list, Deti responded that "vaccine rules are complex."
Deti said the recent full Food and Drug Administration approval recently given to the Pfizer vaccine is only for those 16 and over, and that the vaccine has not been approved for those under 12.
Deti did not clarify if changes to either of those age groups would alter the decision to not put the COVID-19 vaccine on the immunization list.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said the shared goal continues to be for schools to remain open and operating safely, this is in spite of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths increasing in Wyoming over the last few weeks due to the highly contagious Delta variant.
The seven-day case average in Wyoming on August 22 is 343, the highest case average since January 14, up from 98 on July 22, and 57 on June 22.
Deaths have also been increasing, with August 17 seeing the most deaths, 16, since 23 deaths were recorded on February 9.
"There is no question most students benefit from in-person learning...The good news is we now have free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which are readily available across Wyoming and are authorized for anyone 12 and older. While there will be no state vaccine mandate in Wyoming, we know promoting vaccination among eligible students, school staff, family members and throughout our communities can help schools stay open and vibrant as well as help keep students and their teachers in the classroom. An additional benefit to COVID-19 vaccination is that individuals who are fully vaccinated and identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine."
Gordon reiterated that personal responsibility is essential, meaning people are encouraged to get vaccinated and wear a mask to minimize the impact the virus and quarantining have on Wyoming, and that there will be no mask or vaccine mandate.
The press release added that wearing masks in schools makes it so when someone is found to have COVID-19 and both that person and anyone who is identified as a close contact were both wearing masks at the time of exposure, quarantine is not necessary.
Michael Pearlman, communications director for the Governor's office, said Gordon does not support vaccine mandates, but does encourage vaccinations.