PHS student tests positive for COVID-19


A Powell High School student has tested positive for COVID-19, school officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

“Within minutes of the confirmed case, public health was called for instructions, and contact tracing began almost immediately,” wrote Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1. “I think we can all agree that this was probably inevitable, and is the reason why we have the safety processes in place that we do.”

Contact tracers worked through the evening Tuesday to determine who will be quarantined because of this positive case.

“We will be holding school as normal, as we do have full faith in the contact tracing process, and the safety measures we have in place at all of our schools,” Curtis wrote.

He said the positive case at PHS underscores the importance of keeping students home if they are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

“If we are going to keep our schools open for face-to-face instruction, we all need to be diligent in our home screening, and taking personal measures to minimize the spread, namely staying home when sick,” Curtis said.

No additional COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among Powell students, the superintendent said Wednesday afternoon. There were 10 students quarantined as of Wednesday: Nine PHS students and one Shoshone Learning Center student.

“No staff were quarantined due to school exposure, but one staff member was quarantined due to exposure at the Worland football game,” Curtis said Wednesday.

Other Wyoming schools have had positive cases as well, he noted in Tuesday’s message, some as early as the first week, and “the contact tracing has proven extraordinarily effective in minimizing spread.”

An unspecified member of the Northwest College “community” tested positive for COVID-19 last week, as did a student at Lovell High School, according to reporting by the Lovell Chronicle. Meanwhile, Cody Superintendent Peg Monteith said Wednesday afternoon that the Cody district has had five confirmed cases since starting school last week — one at Heart Mountain Academy and four Cody High School students who tested positive this week. Those five students are in isolation, and eight students have been quarantined as close contacts.

All local schools have continued to provide in-person instruction.

“In order to keep our schools open, we are appealing to all of you to use caution when in crowds (masks and social distancing),” the Cody district wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post. “Masks and clean hands are critical to our keeping the school buildings open and educating our students in person.”

Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin said Wednesday that the infected local students are in isolation and “multiple other students and family members are in quarantine as close contacts.”

“These students are at very low risk of an adverse outcome from COVID-19, but there are other students at both schools who are at risk because they are immunocompromised,” Billin wrote in a Facebook post. “Isolation and quarantine are necessary to reduce the risk of spread to students, staff, family, and community members at risk due to age or underlying health conditions.”

While the disease can cause serious illness or death — particularly among older residents and those with other health problems — the vast majority of people infected with the novel coronavirus recover at home with mild or moderate flu-like symptoms.

When a parent called the Powell school district Tuesday about their child testing positive for COVID-19, Curtis contacted Billin, who answered immediately; contact tracing started shortly after that.

“I really cannot say enough good things about the way public health has been to work with since the very beginning of this,” Curtis said.

Superintendent Monteith echoed those sentiments, saying public health “has been amazing to work with.”

“What a great partner!” she said Wednesday.

During a meeting Tuesday night, the Powell school board adopted a metric that lays out different factors  — including the number of COVID cases — that could prompt a school to close, or switch from in-person instruction to a hybrid model (see related story).

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were a total of eight active cases identified in Park County, with three in the Powell area and four in Cody, according to data posted by Dr. Billin. That was up one case from a week earlier. 

The Wyoming Department of Health, which counts cases differently, listed 36 active probable or confirmed cases in Park County on Tuesday, with one COVID-19 patient hospitalized at West Park Hospital in Cody.