COVID community update: Town prepares for ‘new normal’

JACKSON, Wyo. — As some state and county health orders have begun to expire, Teton County is preparing for “phase two” of its COVID-19 response and navigating how to move forward through unfamiliar waters.

Thanks to increased access to rapid PCR testing for COVID-19, St. John’s Health was able to perform 40 elective surgeries on patients who had tested negative for COVID-19.

“We say ‘elective,’ but these surgeries were important to these patients,” said Karen Connelly, chief communications officer for St. John’s Health.

The patients were asymptomatic, but testing assured St. John’s that the virus would not spread to staff or other patients. Connelly said that if they had tested positive, their procedure would have been postponed and they would have been directed into isolation and contact tracing.

St. John’s is still moving forward with Abbott antibody testing, but is also exploring random PCR testing for hospital staff. Connelly reminded the public that antibody testing should not affect behavior in any way, as results do not indicate infection or immunity.

Connelly echoed Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen’s plea that anyone with an emergency should call 911. St. John’s has “worked really hard to make the environment in the hospital and clinics as safe as possible,” Connelly said. And Hansen said his EMS teams are fully equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE).

“No one should be afraid to seek care,” Hansen said.

Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce President Anna Olsen encouraged business owners to look to the Chamber’s website for a visual timeline of business reopenings.

Community Foundation President Laurie Andrews took a moment to honor the work she has seen from local nonprofits to meet the community’s “ongoing and emerging needs.”

“We typically grant support to 100-200 people a year,” Andrews said. “We have received over 2,000 applications since mid-March and granted more than $1.5 million in emergency response funds.”

The work of nonprofits to handle this crisis is only just beginning, Andrews said. People will continue to be affected for a long time, and budget cuts will likely “have a lasting effect on health and human services.”

“Our goal is to come out of this different but whole. To keep intact all that makes this community so special and able to truly be a thriving, livable community,” Andrews said.

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