JACKSON, Wyo. — As weekly vaccination rates begin to slow in Teton County, the discussion surrounding incentivizing individuals to receive a vaccine has become an opportunity many businesses and states are beginning to explore. The Teton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) discussed offering incentives to county employees during their meeting, yesterday, May 10.
Commissioner Luther Propst brought up the idea of exploring incentive opportunities for county employees during the discussion portion of the meeting. “I’d like to get a better sense of the options that would be available to the county if we were to look at providing incentives for people to get vaccinated,” said Commissioner Propst. Adding, “I am concerned that we are not past it, the summer numbers could spike again. ”
Commissioner Greg Epstein said he was “personally opposed to that,” citing that receiving a vaccine is a personal decision. He said, “People can personally make that choice. I’m not sure throwing money at the situation is the right way to approach it.”
In Teton County, an estimated 55.71% of the population is fully vaccinated as of May 10.
Board Chair Natalia D. Macker said that she was interested in exploring the options the county had and discussed how some incentive programs were already occurring in the community through the Health Department with partnerships that bring vaccinations to private businesses and workplaces.
Macker did share concerns about the financial aspect of incentivizing County employees, “I have concerns about allocating general fund monies and I guess that would be a question of if we are even statutorily allowed to do something like that,” she said.
The County currently allows staff to leave work for a vaccine appointment.
In April, Jackson Hole News&Guide reported that St. John’s Health Board of Trustees decided to offer financial incentives to employees who chose to be vaccinated. Their board allocated about half a million dollars to a bonus program that rewards full-time employees with a $600 bonus and part-time employees a pro-rated bonus if they are fully vaccinated prior to May 31.
In Wyoming, 27% of the population, or 158,695 people have been fully vaccinated, based on CDC data as of May 10. About 201,174 people have received the first dose. According to statistical data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 32% of residents in Johnson, Converse, Washakie, Crook, Niobrara, Weston, Natrona, Goshen, Campbell, Platte, and Carbon counties are hesitant about getting vaccinated, more than any other counties in the U.S.
Commissioner Propst was concerned about the upcoming tourist season in the area. He said, “Are we at herd immunity? Will we be in July? Those are the kind of questions that I am posing. If we are not, then it would make more sense for us to provide some incentives or to work with businesses to do so.”
During an April 27 BCC meeting, Teton County Health Department Director of Health Jodie Pond presented the Board with an update about vaccination rates in the County. She said, “this is where the work begins, getting this first 50% has been the “easy part” now comes the hard part.” Pond also said, “Covid will become endemic, meaning that it’s going to be here. We are not going to eradicate it like we did polio. We are going to have to respond appropriately.”
The Board decided to seek out more information from County staff before making any decisions. Alyssa Watkins, the BCC Administrator, was tasked with collecting more information from the Economic Recovery Task Force and the Teton County Health Department to share with the Board.