CHEYENNE — State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist addressed the pleas across the state to de-mask students in schools during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
As the state has seen a rise in parents and groups asking for masks to be removed from schools, Dr. Harrist remains firm in believing that masks are necessary and are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus in schools.
“Based on what we’ve seen in the past month [masks] are working,” she said.
However, she pointed out that the state health orders only require face masks in schools when six-feet distancing cannot be accomplished.
She said that over the past month, the state has seen nearly 100 cases of COVID-19 reported in students and staff in Wyoming schools. However, no school has had to close due to breakouts.
With seeing no significant transmission while wearing face masks, the Wyoming Department of Health is no longer recommending quarantine for close contacts of an infected individual if masks were worn by both the infectious individual and the close contacts at the time of exposure.
If no masks were being worn, which is seen more often in extracurriculars such as sports, quarantine is still recommended for close contacts.
Dr. Harrist said the state will continue to evaluate the data which will be used to decide if and when face masks can be removed in schools. So far, the state has not received any variances from school districts to remove face masks.
She added that face shields can be used as an extra protective measure, but there is not evidence at the state or federal level of them being as effective as masks. Therefore, masks should be worn by students and staff within schools, unless excused by a medical condition. In that case, shields can be utilized.