Gov. Gordon says no mask mandate for K-12 public schools

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon says he will not issue another mask mandate for public schools.

“My focus is on supporting local school boards as they take into account conditions in their community and work to assure students learn safely this year too,” Gordon said in a statement released Wednesday.

The decision was made without coronavirus transmission data from August and came the same day Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, issued a statement urging caution around virus transmission, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.

“We are deeply concerned. The Delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant,” Harrist said.

When asked if the governor’s decision was made in consultation with state health officer or other epidemiologists, Gordon’s spokesman, Michael Pearlman, said, “This was the governor’s decision.”

The question of whether masks should be required in K-12 schools has ignited a number of debates across the state.

Gordon’s announcement comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state mirror figures from early January and as vaccine rates have plateaued. Vaccines have not been approved for children ages 11 and under.