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“The enemy is the virus and not each other,” said Dr. Paul Beaupre. Photo: Mufid Majnun

JACKSON, Wyo. — The first COVID-19 community update since May just wrapped up in a virutal meeting.

The meeting, held at noon today, Sept. 1, featured updates from the Town and County, the Health Department, St. John’s Health, and Teton County Health Officer, Dr. Travis Riddell.

Local health officials urged those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated and presented local COVID-19 data. They also discussed vaccine booster availability, breakthrough cases, and monoclonal antibody therapy.

“If you are unvaccinated plan on getting COVID,” said Dr. Paul Beaupre.

He said, “The answer for the unvaccinated is to get vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated and get COVID you will die, or you will become a long hauler, or you will recover and develop immunity. Why take the chance at the other two?”

For those who are vaccinated, Beaupre said the likelihood of dying from COVID is less than dying in an automobile accident.

He also said that those who are vaccinated and get the virus should not be scared. “It might be a good thing to have a breakthrough, your body is mounting a new immune response from the virus, providing you with additional immunity.”

Dr. Travis Riddell discussed local data as well as national studies looking at the effectiveness of vaccines. “Cumulatively, Wyoming has the same number of cases per capita as New York City. This is not an urban disease,” he said.

Riddell also discussed the recent mask order and public comment. He said he received nearly 700 emails, many from vaccinated people sharing frustrations because they feel like they have done their part to stop the spread of the virus.

“We need to wear masks to protect others and the community as a whole. Protect children who are unvaccinated, nursing homes patients and those who have chosen to not get vaccinated,” Riddell said.

He made the analogy that masks are another layer of protection during high transmission periods, just like going out in multiple layers when temperatures are sub-zero.

Mary Ponce, RN director of critical care services said that 84% of patients that are admitted to St. John’s with COVID are unvaccinated, 92% of patients in the ICU with COVID are unvaccinated.

She discussed the mental, physical and emotional strain the local nurses are feeling. Many nurses have left the medical field in the past 19 months and the hospital is “at risk of others leaving as we speak,” Ponce said.

As a nurse herself, Ponce said, “The pandemic challenges our commitment to healthcare.”

“The patients we are seeing are getting younger and younger. They are in their 30s and 40s,” Ponce said. She explained that there is frustration among the nursing staff because this is avoidable if people get vaccinated.

All of the community leaders stressed the fact that the community needs to work together to control the spread of the virus.

“The enemy is the virus and not each other,” Beaupre said.

Mayor Morton Levinson discussed the recent mask order the town voted to extend through the end of 2021 while the risk level is in orange or red. Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Natalia Macker said the Board will meet tomorrow to consider a county-wide extension. A new state statute requires local governing bodies to vote on health order extensions beyond 10 days.

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Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.