Wyoming announces COVID-19 testing program for teachers

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced Wednesday that teachers will be able to be tested for COVID-19 under a new state program as they prepare to return to classrooms statewide.

The program will function similarly to the testing plan implemented in May for long-term care facilities, where samples were collected from 20% of staff members and residents every two weeks at facilities without any reported cases, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.

State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist described that program as a “proactive” measure meant to find cases and control outbreaks.

Staff and residents at facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases were tested weekly until the outbreaks disappeared, Harrist said.

Some teachers will be tested at regular intervals, and districts will have the option of whether to participate in the program, Gordon said, adding that additional details are still being worked out.

“We want to make sure teachers know they have access to and feel comfortable coming back to school,” he said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said the state is requiring schools to develop plans with multiple stages depending on how many people potentially test positive. Balow said more than half of the state’s 48 school districts’ plans had been approved.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.