CHEYENNE – With the Delta COVID-19 variant beginning to creep its way into Wyoming, the coronavirus, masks and vaccines dominated much of the conversation during the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees meeting this week.
Superintendent Boyd Brown, in his final meeting with the board before incoming Superintendent Margaret Crespo takes over Thursday, clarified to the public that there are certain decisions regarding the pandemic neither he nor the board are involved with.
“As a district, we believe that staff, students and parents should make decisions regarding testing and vaccinations based on guidance from their primary health care provider,” Brown said.
He noted that while all of Wyoming’s pandemic-related health orders have expired, the Wyoming Department of Health has recommended vaccinations, physical distancing, using face coverings when physical distancing isn’t possible, contact tracing, proper hand washing etiquette, and regularly cleaning and sanitizing facilities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As of Friday, Laramie County had the most active cases in the state, with 238.
Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department Executive Director Kathy Emmons spoke to the board about the COVID situation within Cheyenne.
“Our COVID numbers are increasing pretty quickly,” she said. “There are approximately 30 cases of the Delta variant in the state, 28 of which are in Laramie County. Those [COVID] variants are definitely increasing the spread in Laramie County.”
Emmons added that 12.29% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the county have been vaccinated against the virus.
She told Trustee Tim Bolin she believed COVID cases were higher in the county compared to the rest of the state due to a clustering of events (such as graduations, parties and weddings) and a low vaccination rate among adults.
Around 32% of Laramie County is fully vaccinated as of this week, and of the several thousand shots the health department has administered, only two people have had severe enough reactions to cause them to go to the hospital (although neither were admitted).
“We’ve seen our numbers of folks being vaccinated go down consistently,” Emmons said.
Laramie County Health Officer Stan Hartman expressed concern about the possibility of cases surging to the point where Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit is completely full, as was the case last November.
Thankfully, since much of CRMC’s staff has been vaccinated, and the hospital is better supplied with personal protective equipment, Hartman said hospital officials feel cautiously optimistic they could handle another COVID surge, should the situation arise.
Hartman also assured board members and the public that there were no discussions of requiring a COVID vaccine for students to attend school, either in Laramie County or in Wyoming.
Brown noted that around 60% of LCSD1 staff (including teachers, administrative staff, bus drivers, custodians and more) had been vaccinated against the virus, although he didn’t have specific numbers.