Park County: Masks May be Needed to Keep School In Session
Written by Andrew-Rossi on September 13, 2021
While there have yet to be any changes, Park County Public Health says parents should be “prepared to do what it takes” to keep their kids safe in school.
As Cody and Park County deal with a new, more severe surge of COVID-19 cases, the county remains largely unrestricted. This includes schools, which have been in-person and mask-free since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
Now, circumstances have changed. Many students and staff are out of the classroom, either with COVID or in quarantine. In Thermopolis, in-person classes were suspended for two weeks as 30% of high school students were absent due to COVID-19.
Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin weighs in on the issue, and, in his professional perspective, anything is possible – and may be needed.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, Dr. Billin shared several relevant facts and studies on the Park County Wyoming Health Officer Facebook page.
- A scientific review in Acta Paediatrica (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/apa.15784) of 1 pediatric study and 8 adult studies found no evidence of physical harms from masks at rest or during mild exercise.
- A recent study found significant evidence of adverse mental health effects of remote schooling on older, black, Hispanic, and lower-income students (https://jamanetwork.com/…/jama…/article-abstract/2783714).
Each study contributes to the big question: should a mask mandate be implemented in our schools?
Citing the current situation in Park and Hot Springs counties, Dr. Billin suggests Wyoming already succeeded last year with in-person pandemic schooling. So now, it might be in the county’s best interests to go back to the same policies implemented last school year.
Dr. Billin elaborated on his view in his Facebook post:
“ . . . in order to mitigate the greatest potential harm to our children, Park County schools should be prepared to do what it takes to make it most likely to have in-person education throughout the school year, as we did last year. This includes adhering to the Wyoming Department of Health guidelines on mask-wearing and contact tracing in schools. The Wyoming Department of Health broke with the CDC last year when they accumulated data showing that they could safely keep kids in school with their activities intact. The CDC later adopted the WDH guidelines because the Wyoming Department of Health got it right.”
Neither Park County Public Health nor any Park County school district has indicated they are considering or drafting a mask mandate – for now.
Last week, an email was sent to all parents with children enrolled in Park County School District #6 in Cody. The email included a survey asking parents’ opinions on a renewed mask mandate for in-person classes.
Masks are still required on all Park County school buses. This, however, is due to a still-active federal order and not anything implemented by the county.
This discussion isn’t occurring in a vacuum – in recent weeks, Park County’s COVID-19 climate has gotten significantly worse. Both Cody Regional Health and Powell Valley Healthcare are near or at capacity, working with limited resources and a shortage of medical staff.
Last week, Cody Regional Health implemented Crisis Standards of Care due to the current COVID surge. The standards could lead to double occupancy in the Acute and Critical Care units, no elective surgeries, and no out-of-state transfers for all cases requiring critical care.