JACKSON, Wyo. — The town of Jackson hosted a Covid-19 community update meeting on Friday, Oct. 9. The meeting featured briefings from community officials and discussed the recent increase in cases.

Director of Health, Jodie Pond opened the meeting with data about the past two weeks. “We have had 122 new cases reported in the last two weeks, thats approximately up by 82% in the previous two weeks, when we had 67 new cases — and just to note these new cases in this period of time have accounted for roughly 20% of the cases we’ve had to date.”

Pond outlined the age breakdown of the cases saying, “our 15-19-year-old population is overrepresented in the past two weeks, and our over 75 is over-represented, and these are attributable to high school-aged students, and whats going on in the living center.”

An increase in cases this rapidly has stressed contact tracing services as well as hospital staff. Dr. Paul Beaupre, CEO of St. John’s Health, said, “morale is good despite the fact the staff is stressed. I think all of you should be aware that more than 1500 U.S health care workers have died from COVID since the pandemic has hit our soil.”

Following a recent outbreak at the St. John’s Health Living Center, eight residents are currently in the hospital. Dr. Beaupre said, “we have eleven patients that are positive for COVID in the hospital, the highest number that we’ve ever had. And we have 24 staff that are quarantined because of either exposure to COVID patients or exposure to people from the outside that tested positive.”

Director Pond warned the community about the way the virus is spreading, and how the current outbreak was contracted, “37 cases were attributed to community spread, 79 cases had close contact with another known positive, what we know is that people are getting infected by people they know, either in their households, or their friends, people aren’t just picking this up on the street.” About 9% of the cases had a history of travel.

Gillian Chapman, Ed.D., Superintendant of Teton County Schools was also virtually present at the meeting and shared a briefing about how TCSD is doing. “We are pleased to report that none of the positive cases have been due to exposure at school. Our school protocols are working and they are working really well to date,” said Chapman. “Currently we have no staff that is positive for COVID and we have nine students in the school district who are positive for COVID at this time.”

She also made it clear that the district does not issue quarantine orders. “The Wyoming department of health recently changed their guidelines. individuals who are exposed at school will be issued quarantine orders, only if face coverings were not worn or they weren’t worn properly,” Chapman said.

Chapman also discussed the possibility of returning to traditional face-to-face teaching, specifically for elementary school students who are in class 4 days per week, and virtual on Fridays. “Because we are podding, what that means is our classroom teachers are with the students all day long, they don’t have a break for going to the bathroom, they don’t have collaboration time, they don’t have planning time, so it’s really important that we stay the course and have that time for our staff on Fridays.”

“Our system is working and we have learned so much since we started this, six, seven months ago, so we are going to stay the course and we will remain, diligent until we can bring our students back to the full face-to-face model,” said Chapman.

What does this mean in terms of another shutdown? All of the officials agreed that at this point, there is no cause fo a community shut down. Each agreed that the community needs to continue to wear masks correctly and to get a flu shot. Director Pond said, “we know so much more now.”

Mayor Pete Muldoon urged the community to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, especially coming into this winter. “122 people in the past two weeks is a scary number,” he said.

The complete meeting can be found here.

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.