I have been notified by the Departments of Health that the Masking Variance Request submitted by the School Board to Dr. Harrist has been denied. The Wyoming Department of Health has established guidelines based on metrics developed by the White House Task Force under the prior administration, which continue to be used by the current administration. The State and County update transmission rates daily, which can be viewed at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-state-and-county-dashboards/, and utilize this data to update each counties’ status weekly. At this time, Laramie County is still in the yellow zone and does not yet meet the established guidelines. The county must be in the green for at least two weeks before a waiver variance will be considered. I have attached the responses from the county and state regarding the variance request submitted.
Superintendent Jon Abrams
April 21, 2021
Jon Abrams, Superintendent
Laramie County School District # 2
311 East 8thy Street
Pine Bluffs, WY 82082
Dear Mr. Abrams,
This letter serves to notify you that the masking variance request you submitted to Dr. Harrist has been rejected. I recognize the amount of time and energy the LCSD #2 school board and your team put into the request. Unfortunately, the Wyoming Department of Health has established guidelines, based on the White House recommendations, for variance requests and Laramie County has not yet met the required level. Please see the correspondence below that we received today from Dr. Harrist, which explains further her actions.
Thank you for your dedication to the children and families of LCSD #2 and please let me know if you have any questions.
Kathy Emmons, DM
When reviewing exception requests and requests for less restrictive variance orders at the county level, we base those decisions based on county measures of transmission levels. Currently, the metrics indicate that Laramie County is experiencing moderate-high levels of transmission (orange zone) with low percent test positivity, indicating that overall Laramie County is continuing to experience moderate transmission levels (Yellow zone). Counties need to be in the "green zone" for at least two weeks before less restrictive measures are approved. All schools now with exceptions to the mask orders are in counties with sustained low levels of transmission in the green zone over multiple weeks. Based on the current levels of transmission in Laramie County, public health measures such as distancing and masks remain important to protect students and staff from infection and prevent outbreaks. We have based decisions on these metrics for several months, and we have been consistent in approving less restrictive measures only when the metrics indicate low levels of transmission. These metrics are based on metrics developed by the White House Task Force under the previous administration and they continue to be used by the current administration. Based on these metrics, I will not approve an exemption to the mask requirements for Laramie County School District #2 at this time.
We do review the metrics on a daily basis and I would approve this exception request if Laramie County achieves and maintains low levels of transmission. The weekly updated document with the metrics reviewed can always be found on this page: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-orders-and-guidance/. Additionally, the data used to calculate the metrics for each county and the state can be found on the state and county dashboards, which are updated daily Monday through Friday (https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-state-and-county-dashboards/). Laramie County has seen stabilization of transmission levels with some improvement over the past couple of weeks. With continued public health measures, we hope to see continued decreases. If Laramie County can enter the Green Zone and maintain that for at least two weeks, then exceptions to the orders would be appropriate.
Measures that can help decrease transmission levels include encouraging testing for any ill individuals as well as their close contacts, so that appropriate isolation and quarantine measures can be implemented and transmission chains can be broken. In addition, we have three effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines available and the more people that can be vaccinated, the greater our success will be at reducing illness and transmission. Even if school staff chose not to be vaccinated when it was first available to them, they remain eligible and can get vaccinated now if they choose. Students between the ages of 16-18 are also eligible for vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine
(Partial memo from Dr. Alexia Harrist)