State to Offer COVID-19 Surveillance Testing for Teachers

State to Offer COVID-19 Surveillance Testing for Teachers

Jillian Ballow, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, discussed the upcoming school year during a press conference Wednesday.

CHEYENNE — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced Wednesday that the state is planning on offering an opt-in COVID-19 Coronavirus testing program for teachers, in which they would test a percentage of teachers at regular intervals.

This is being offered in hopes of giving comfort to teachers, as well as the community amid returning to school. Dr. Alexia Harrist, State Public Health Officer, said the testing would be like what the state has been doing with long-term care facilities.

The testing of teachers is not officially recommended by the CDC at this time, but Dr. Harrist said it may be beneficial and that the state has the capability. Due to it not being officially recommended, that is why the program will be optional. School districts will have the opportunity to opt in or not.

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Governor Gordon said that the state intends to be flexible with the testing program, as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted areas throughout the state differently and at different levels. He said they want to work with school districts to provide tools to ensure safety during this school year.

“We’re really trying to provide tools that schools can use, and we want to ensure that not only our teachers feel safe, but parents and the kids themselves feel safe in schools,” Governor Gordon said.

In-Person Instruction Looks Different Amid COVID-19

Jillian Ballow, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said that the majority of the 48 school districts are set to start with in-person instruction. Half of the Smart Start reopening plans have been approved, and she said the rest will be approved by the end of the week.

Each district’s plans include three tiers of delivering education, tier one being in-person instruction with modifications, tier two being a hybrid learning environment and block scheduling , and tier three being completely remote learning.

Ballow said though some school districts are starting school in tier three, most are starting in tier one, and she hopes they will be able to remain in tier one throughout the school year. However, in-person instruction with modifications means state and local public health orders must be taken into account.

“In-person instruction look different to how it did before we went to remote learning last school year,” Ballow said.

Modifications include practicing social distancing of at least six-feet, and when that is not possible, all students, staff, and visitors must wear face coverings.

Will Schools Reopening Cause an Uptick in Cases?

Last week, Dr. Harrist said there will be cases of COVID-19 in students, however, she said this does not necessarily mean an overall increase due to schools reopening.

“I wouldn’t say I expect an overall increase that is directly caused by or connected to schools,” Dr. Harrist said.

She said the measures that schools are taking to ensure the safety of students and staff, such as social distancing and face coverings, can be effective. Throughout the summer, groups such as day cares and baseballs teams have been using the measures effectively. However, an increase in cases is still a concern.

“That being said, it certainly is a possibility and a concern, and we’ll be monitoring the situation closely,” she said.

Dr. Harrist said students and staff can still contract the virus outside of a school setting, and that is why it remains so important for the community to continue to take COVID-19 precautions seriously.