RIVERTON — A mask mandate was reinstated Wednesday at Central Wyoming College to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
The mandate applies to all CWC facilities in Fremont, Teton and Hot Springs counties, where college administrators say COVID-19 cases –– and hospitalizations –– are on the rise.
In Fremont County, almost 520 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks, and there currently are more than 300 active cases, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Two months ago the county had just 19 active cases.
Fremont County has eight confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the past two weeks.
Seven COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Wednesday in Fremont County, down from 11 Tuesday. There were no adult intensive care unit rooms available countywide on Aug. 28 and again Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
At CWC, academic affairs vice president Kathy Wells said she has been in contact with the staff area clinics who say they are “getting to the point where they feel like their personnel resources are being stretched.”
It was those conversations, combined with the increase in case numbers and hospitalizations in CWC’s service area, and with data from the Wyoming Department of Health placing Fremont, Hot Springs and Teton counties in the “top two tiers” of its color-coded COVID-19 transmission ranking system, that prompted CWC to implement the mask mandate this week.
Wells, a trained health-care professional who is the former CWC director of nursing, is the college’s point person on COVID planning and response.
Wells pointed out that, among staff and students, COVID-19 numbers have “been quite low –– which we’re happy about.”
She said she is hopeful that the new mask mandate will help keep those numbers down.
“We’re trying to prevent having to go to remote learning,” Wells said. “We’re just trying to be proactive and doing everything we can at this point, from a proactive perspective rather than a reactive perspective, to keep our students in the classroom, engaged with activities. … We don’t want to have to negatively impact that. So that’s partly why we started with this first step.”
The mask mandate is scheduled to be in place through Sept 21, when CWC will re-evaluate the situation.
“If our data improves and the external data is looking better, we’re certainly anxious to remove the mandate,” Wells said.
“If it doesn’t look like there are improvements, then we’ll continue it. (But) it will be evaluated routinely.”