SWEETWATER COUNTY — With the state mask mandate being lifted last week, the issue of masks within schools has become a hot topic.
On March 11, the Sublette County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees voted to remove the SMART Start Plan and instead follow the state public health orders. This means that the requirement of masks within schools has been removed.
“Simply stated, no student, staff member or visitor to the district will be required to wear a mask,” the district said on their Facebook page.
Today was the first day of school without the mask requirement.
During a COVID-19 informational meeting with public health representatives, elected officials, industry representatives and members of the media, Sweetwater County Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon said that the direction from the state is that the county must be in the “green” zone for school districts to remove masks in schools.
This means the county’s transmission levels and number of cases must be considered “low” to apply for a variance to remove masks.
Sublette County is marked as a “dark green” zone, meaning their transmission levels are considered “lowest”. On Wednesday, March 17, Sublette County’s 14-day positivity rate was 0.7 percent, according to the the White House COVID-19 Task Force.
As of last Wednesday, Sweetwater County was in the “orange” zone, which means the county has moderate-high transmission levels. On Wednesday, Sweetwater County’s 14-day positivity rate was at 3.6 percent, but the number of cases was at 260.
Sweetwater County School District No. 1 said over the weekend that they will continue to require masks within schools, as Sweetwater County is not eligible to apply for a variance. Sweetwater County School District No. 2 has yet to release a statement regarding masks in schools.
“I can’t speak for School District No. 2, but I know School District No. 1’s board said they would go with whatever the state says and not ask for variances unless it’s basically under the guidelines of the state and Dr. Harrist,” Dr. Stachon said. “So as long as we’re not in the green zone, my understanding is they would not ask for a variance, nor would I move forward with asking for one either, until our county shows they can support the schools in being low transmission.”
Dr. Stachon said that the county needs to remain diligent in reducing spread of COVID-19 in order for the schools to remove the mask requirements. She said this can be done by continuing to wear masks in public, and by getting vaccinated.