CHEYENNE — A group of local health care providers is asking Wyoming’s largest school district to keep its mask mandate in place through the end of the year.
In a letter sent to Laramie County School District 1 last month, several doctors and other health care professionals who work for the Cheyenne Children’s Clinic said they “feel that masks have been a necessary and effective means to decrease the community spread” of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed more than 700 Wyomingites and more than 578,000 total Americans.
“As a clinic, our clear message to the LCSD1 school board is that masks and social distance have been helping,” the letter reads. “These measures have not caused unnecessary or permanent harm to students any more than the stress of the pandemic as a whole. In order to keep our community safe, we ask that you keep the K-12 mask requirement in place through the current school year and re-evaluate in the fall to determine ongoing need for masks at school based on current outbreak and data science.”
Since schools reopened for in-person learning last fall, LCSD1 has required students and staff who are unable to social distance to wear masks as part of its broader COVID-19 safety plan. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon recently lifted the mask requirement for many other public spaces, but kept it in place for K-12 schools.
Although at least 20 school districts have received a variance from the Wyoming Department of Health allowing them to lift their mask mandate, those districts have had to meet a strict threshold of low case counts per population. Laramie County School District 2, which serves the rural parts of the county, requested a variance, but it was denied because the health department said the county as a whole had too many cases.
But that information – LCSD1 does not meet the state health department’s state threshold for a variance – has not stopped a vocal group of parents from demanding the school board vote to request a waiver for the mask mandate.
The board has declined to do that, and LCSD1 Board of Trustees Chair Rose Ann Million Rinne read pieces of the letter from the Children’s Clinic at Monday night’s school board meeting.
“We, as a community, are struggling through this,” she said. “Every single individual on this board is doing their very best to take the information they’ve received and make the very best choice they can.”
Last month, more than two dozen parents and community members spoke at a school board meeting and claimed that mask wearing – which has allowed school to stay open all year because students who are wearing one if they are exposed to COVID-19 don’t have to quarantine – causes psychological harm to children.
The Children’s Clinic, however, firmly rebuked that assertion in its letter to the district.
“Mask wearing has been an inconvenience for us all, however, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that kids are traumatized by mask-wearing,” the letter reads. “Instead, they look to their parents and teachers for that reassurance and normalization of something new like masks. Most parents have been helpful and reassuring, but if they themselves choose not to follow public health guidelines or complain and are bitter about such measures, then it is likely the children will have more difficulty wearing masks.”