UPDATED: Two more PHS students test positive for COVID-19

Second case reported at NWC

Posted 9/10/20

An additional two Powell High School students have tested positive for the novel coronavirus — bringing the total to three this week — while a non-instructional staff member has also …

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UPDATED: Two more PHS students test positive for COVID-19

Second case reported at NWC


Two additional Powell High School students tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week — bringing the total to three — while a non-instructional staff member has also tested positive.

In addition, eight students and two staff members are quarantined, said Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1.

“At this time, we are remaining fully open, but if our case count goes much higher, we will likely be considering Tier 2 instruction, at least at the high school,” Curtis wrote in a Thursday message to parents and the community.

The superintendent repeated what he said Sept. 8 after the first case was announced, “which is that this was likely inevitable.”

“We will continue to closely monitor the case count, and rely on the contact tracing to minimize exposure within the school setting,” Curtis wrote.

Public health officials have performed contact tracing and worked to determine who came into close contact with the infected people. Curtis said Monday that no additional cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed beyond those announced last week.

The three students who tested positive are in isolation. Curtis reiterated that the eight students in quarantine did not test positive, but were exposed to COVID-19 and are therefore being directed to stay home.

“When you have positive cases, those people are considered isolated,” he said. “When you have people who have been exposed, they are quarantined.”

There was some false information going around that there were eight cases at the high school, because people had misunderstood the quarantine number, he said.

“We do have one staff member at the middle school that is also quarantined from exposure over Labor Day that is not school related, but it is a quarantine situation,” Curtis said.

No cases have been reported at local elementary schools.

In addition to contact tracing, the school district also is relying on the systems it has in place to reduce spread in all local schools. Those measures include social distancing, face coverings, plexiglass barriers and encouraging frequent handwashing.

“At this time, I would urge our entire community to be as vigilant as we can with our use of face coverings and social distancing,” Curtis wrote Thursday. “Keeping our kids in school will have to be a community effort. Our behaviors outside of school very much affect our ability to keep our schools open.”

The Panther volleyball team’s games were canceled over the weekend after a positive case, as there had not been enough time to trace the infected student’s contacts prior to the team’s scheduled departure for Kemmerer (see related story).

Northwest College President Stefani Hicswa announced Friday that a “member of our campus community” tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. It was the second case at NWC since the fall semester began, though the other person has since recovered, college officials said.

“As with the previous case, we have taken the necessary precautions to eliminate any spread of the virus to the campus and the community,” Hicswa said. “As cases continue to occur in our local area (Powell, Cody and the Big Horn Basin), the chances of additional cases on campus are likely to occur.”

She reminded students to stay home or in their rooms when not feeling well and to wear masks when indoors and whenever within 6 feet of others on campus.

“Please note this requirement is more rigorous than the governor’s orders,” Hicswa said.

She also thanked students for their efforts to keep the campus safe.

PHS Principal Tim Wormald similarly thanked parents for their support in a Friday message.

“Overall, it’s been a good start to the year, and students and staff are doing great,” he said.

Since school started in Lovell and Cody in recent weeks, both school districts also have reported positive cases of COVID-19.

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

Although COVID-19 activity picked up in Park County on Wednesday and Thursday — with 10 confirmed and one probable case — the number of active infections has decreased significantly in recent weeks. As of Monday, the Wyoming Department of Health pegged the number of active infections in the county at 16; that’s the lowest figure seen in months.

Most people recover from the disease at home, sometimes having no symptoms, but COVID-19 can cause serious complications or, in rare cases, death.