Our View: It's time to mask up across Green River's schools


September 23, 2021

The best time for a mask mandate within Green River’s schools was a month ago.

The second-best time is now.

As Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County continues to deal with waves of COVID-19-infected people seeking treatment, it’s no secret the doctors and nurses working at the hospital are fatigued. In a move that impacts everyone in the county, the hospital was forced to end elective surgeries until recently and convert that space into a second COVID-19 ward. And yet, there is largely nothing being done to curb infections.

The one exception is Western Wyoming Community College. The college had prepared “A Return to Normal,” hosting in-person classes and starting the school year as if the coronavirus pandemic had ended. Shortly after classes started at the college, the delta variant’s spread widened, and the college’s board and administration decided to enact a temporary mask mandate. This may not have been a politically popular decision, but it was the right call and their infections numbers prove it.

Contrast this with Sweetwater County School District No. 2. Last week, data was presented to the district’s board of trustees showing the rates of students across the district being quarantined and contracting the illness has already grown beyond the numbers seen last year. Individual school data wasn’t presented, giving us a sense that some schools might be more impacted than others. Yet, despite clear evidence of an increasing impact by COVID-19, the district refuses to act until a higher number of students are infected. According to data on the district’s website, as of last Friday the district had 44 students or staff with positive cases and 180 quarantined.

This is wholly impractical and only serves to set students and families up with a burden the moment a student comes home with a quarantine order. For two-income households, someone will have to take time off and stay with the children throughout the quarantine. If they develop symptoms, those parents will have to care for their children and possibly contract the illness as they do so. Regardless, that time off may translate to lost wages, tightening budgets during an already difficult time.

The district’s inability to deviate from its Smart Start plan in the face of the data presented last week is akin to a man standing in a rainstorm with a fully functioning and unopened umbrella who plans to use it only if the storm somehow gets worse. He’s still getting drenched regardless of how heavy the rain is.

Board members, it’s time to open that umbrella. It’s time to initiate a masking mandate in Green River’s schools. We know it isn’t a popular decision, but it’s one that will help shield families from the pressures of this ongoing pandemic. It’s a move that will also help reduce the workload on the doctors and nurses at MHSC. It’s time to set aside politics and do what’s best for the community.


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