Casper Council Debates COVID-19 Measures, Including Early School Closures
Casper City council members and city staff were asked to submit suggestions to slow the spread of COVID-19, but some proposals are beyond what the city can do or should do.
One suggestion was to encourage the Natrona County School District to stop in-person learning from Thanksgiving through the end of the Christmas break.
With no classes, the school resource officers -- Casper police officers assigned to the schools -- would be able to help businesses enforce their mask requirements.
During the pre-meeting before the regular meeting broadcast on YouTube, Ken Bates said the city should put pressure on the school district to shut down after Thanksgiving through the Christmas break.
"That gives us over a month to see how the numbers would react," Bates said, adding a number of teachers are out sick.
There was an increase in COVID-19 cases after the beginning of the school year, despite the district mandating students and staff to wear masks, he said.
That mask mandate hasn't worked, he said.
Bates asked council members to drive by any elementary school and count how many children wear masks during recess. Not many students do so, he said.
If businesses don't require customers to wear masks, the city should leave them alone, Bates said.
Mayor Steve Freel said he and City Manager Carter Napier on Tuesday spoke with a representative of the Walmart corporation. Unless the state mandates masks, Walmart would prefer to not have law enforcement in the store. Then Walmart would be willing to have enforcement available to trespass from its property a someone who doesn't wear a mask.
The city has no authority to impose a mask mandate, either, Freel said. That would be up to the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, which would need approval from the Wyoming Department of Health. (That happened late Tuesday.)
Enforcing a mask mandate would only further stretch the police department, which already has the job of dealing with crimes, Freel said.
Likewise, the city doesn't control the school district or its policies, he said.
Shawn Johnson said the city can't and shouldn't use the police force for a company policy.
Another suggestion was to close bars and restaurants at 10 p.m.
Freel said it wasn't up to the city to say when bars and restaurants should close. "The virus doesn't have a watch; it does not tell time."
Steve Cathey said if the city does that, those customers will just go to places outside Casper City limits.
Bates said a bar has a right to close when it wants to.
However, Mike Huber disagreed, and favored a 10 p.m. closing time, which is like any other arbitrary time.
The longer people stay at a bar, the more likely they'll get boisterous with loud talking and the spewing of droplets from mouths, he said.
"It's all about trying to reduce and eliminate as much risky behavior as you can," he said.
Regarding the argument that people will go elsewhere, Huber said if other communities don't want to close their bars and take the risk of more infections, that's on them.
"I want to have Casper be in the lead and trying to make our community as safe as it can and do everything that we can," he said.
LOOK: Historical Wyoming License Plates Since 1914