The Natrona County School District has done a commendable job of balancing the need for students' education and controlling the spread of COVID-19, two physicians said Wednesday.

As the pandemic was taking hold in March and April, and the first few cases were being reported in Wyoming, Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell spoke with the district's board of trustees and other community leaders about how to deal with COVID-19.

"I want to compliment the school district for the hard work they've put in and sticking with a really great program," Dowell said during a press conference at the hospital.

However, Natrona County and Wyoming are seeing an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases that will only get worse in the coming months, he said. "The hospital is already stretched, and we're not really seeing the amount of COVID we're going to see."

One case typically spins off another three or four cases, Dowell said, adding everyone needs to mask in businesses and for those who go to those businesses, as well as to practice social distancing, to slow the spread of the disease.

"This is not fake news, this is nothing like that," he said. "This is the real deal."

Dr. Ghazi Ghanem was among those who worked with the school district to craft its plan to respond and reopen with guidelines for hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing, wearing masks and what happens if someone contracts the disease.

"We want our schools open; it is very vital to our community," Ghanem said.

Nothing has developed within on the state level or in school district's handling of the pandemic to prompt health care officials to consider closing the schools, he said.

"We will not, in any way, push in the other direction unless it's absolutely necessary," Ghanem said.

"If the epidemic gets really out of hand, we may not have a choice," he said. "We don't want that and that's why we're having this conversation."

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