ROCK SPRINGS — The Sweetwater County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees has drafted a letter to Governor Mark Gordon in support of a statewide mask mandate in hopes of preventing the further spread of COVID-19.
Board chairwoman Carol Jelaco read the draft letter into the record at the board’s meeting tonight, urging community members to wear masks in public and continue to practice proper social distancing.
“As one the largest employers in Southwest Wyoming, we are urging you to consider imposing a statewide mask order,” the letter to Gordon states. “We are growing increasingly alarmed with the steep increase in community spread positive COVID-19 cases.”
Sweetwater County saw an increase of nearly 100 positive coronavirus cases over the weekend. The Wyoming Department of Health reported 620 new cases today and a record 172 hospitalizations due to the virus.
During the public comment section of tonight’s meeting, Superintendent Kelly McGovern addressed questions about closing the schools and going back to online instruction.
McGovern said that local public health officials, in collaboration with the school board, administration and state health officials will guide the district’s decision on moving to the next tier.
However, the incidence of COVID19 in the community now poses a significant threat to our organizations and our ability to maintain adequate staffing levels to keep our doors open
Draft letter to Governor Mark Gordon from SCSD No. 1 Board of Trustees
“We have done an excellent job really preventing the transmission from the school into the public,” McGovern told the board. “They also have to look at healthcare capacity. If we have confirmed cases, do we have the healthcare to take care of them and our testing capacity as well.”
The letter also states that with the flu season upon us, it’s more important than ever not to diminish state health orders and “overwhelm our operations, schools, and healthcare systems.
“With your continued leadership and support, we believe a statewide mask order will work to get more of our fellow citizens on board and understand the seriousness and severity of the virus,” the letter concludes.
Staff absenteeism is a growing concern not just for teachers needing substitutes, but for every facet of the district from custodial staff to nutrition services, McGovern said.
A constant line of communication between the Sweetwater County Public Health Office and school nurses has helped with contact tracing and keeping the virus from spreading.
McGovern added that everyone in the district wants to keep schools open, but the main priority is keeping students and staff safe as the district continues to navigate through the pandemic.
“The best thing for our students is to stay at Tier 1 with in-person learning,” McGovern said. “But we’re ready to pivot and turn whenever we need to.”