Since dropping its mask mandate, the Cody School District has had two confirmed active cases of COVID-19 within the walls of its schools, both at Cody Middle School. The two confirmed cases, the only two active cases in the district as of Tuesday evening, have led to a total of 13 people being pulled from school. Two of those are the confirmed cases, while the other 11 are being quarantined. That number could rise to as many as 17 as contact-tracing efforts continue.
“This is a sign the contact-tracing system is working,” said Park County Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Crampton. “It means things are being done the way they need to be done and everything is working appropriately.”
The district has largely taken on contact-tracing responsibilities for itself after being trained by county Public Health last year. Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin commended both the Cody and Powell districts for their contact tracing efforts, saying both superintendents had that information at their fingertips when needed.
After the news of the cases not just in the schools but the broader case count in the county – 28 as of May 17, the highest number in several months – reached the state health department, Billin said he conferred with state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist on the mask variances for Cody and Powell schools. They decided, for now, to keep masks optional in the district until the end of the school year. That could still change in individual schools if the case count hits three or more in that school.
“We’ve had a little uptick in the county,” Billin said. “In Powell, that’s been due to many cases on a family farm. In Cody, it’s been some people who have come as seasonal workers. I think that’s been fairly well contained with contact tracing.”
Crampton also said that there haven’t been any cases tied to the recent increase in tourist activity in the area.
Clinic opportunity not taken
In a meeting Tuesday night, Cody Schools superintendent Peg Monteith said the district had been approached by Public Health “some weeks ago” about hosting a vaccine clinic at Cody High School following the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those age 16 to 18. Monteith said she made an “executive decision” not to host the clinic because of the potential ire of the community.
“Our better judgment said, ‘The next thing you know, we’ll be accused of requiring vaccinations,’” she said. “We opted out of that because we were just afraid the public would take that the wrong way. No good deed goes unpunished.”
The Powell School District did hold a clinic for its students in April, however. Crampton said Public Health received “no pushback” from people in Powell over the clinic. Powell superintendent Jay Curtis could not be reached for comment.
The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for anyone age 12 and older. The vaccine is free for all who want it and appointments to receive it can be made with the county Public Health office. Visit parkcounty.us/CoronaVirus.html for more information.
Monteith said during the meeting the district was also looking into revisions to its Smart Start Plan, the more than 50-page document that laid out how the district would reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus within its walls. Revisions are still in the early stages of discussion, but she mentioned some possible changes included reducing or eliminating the plexiglass barriers that had been installed throughout the district and hiring more janitorial staff.
Clearing up the COVID-19 jargon
Reporting on COVID-19 both from the government and in the news use jargon that can be difficult to understand and words that have similar but different meanings. Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin offered clarity on how some words are used by the government in its reporting. The Enterprise uses the same definitions Billin provided in its reporting.
Confirmed case: a person who has a positive polymerase chain reaction test with or without symptoms
Probable case: a person who has symptoms of COVID-19, had contact with someone who was a confirmed case and has been tested
Isolation: Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are put into isolation. This could be a confirmed or probable case. The three criteria for ending isolation are being fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a fever reducer like Tylenol or ibuprofen, and showing significant improvement in respiratory symptoms, and at least 10 days have passed since onset of symptoms.
Quarantine: Those who have had a significant exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 but have not tested positive themselves and are asymptomatic for the virus are put into quarantine. Those in quarantine are not known to have the virus.
Significant exposure: Those who are unvaccinated and were within 6 feet of a person who has tested positive for the virus for 15 minutes or more are considered to have a significant exposure. Those who have been significantly exposed to the virus are placed in quarantine.