COVID community update: two new confirmed cases, third likely

JACKSON, Wyo. — Teton County has two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of this week, and a third will likely be confirmed in the next two days.

“We have seen an uptick in cases,” said Rachel Wheeler, public health response coordinator for the Teton County Public Health Department, at a community update Friday afternoon.

Of the three cases, one is believed to be community spread. Two are imported.

An uptick was to be expected, Wheeler said. More people are traveling into Jackson, and more Jacksonites are leaving and coming back. Still, Wheeler said each new case is a reminder to stay vigilant about health measures like hand washing and cloth face coverings, especially as restrictions aimed to limit the spread of COVID-19 ease across the state.

‘This continues to be a gradual step-wise opening, but that is in the context of increasing cases on a regional, state, and perhaps to an early extent on a local level,” said Teton District Health Officer Travis Riddell.

As a reminder that COVID is still “very much around us,” Riddell pointed to a recent nearly 30-case spike in Evanston last week associated with a local bar. The surge shut down two local medical offices.  Utah is also seeing the highest daily increases to date.

“It sure seems like there are a lot of Utah plates out there,” Riddell said. “We need to continue to be really careful in our own decisions.”

In happier news, Riddell reported that health officials were able to work with the rodeo on a plan that allows the rodeo to operate this summer under “well-thought-out guidelines and rules.”

St. John’s Health Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly reported that there are currently no COVID-related hospitalizations at St. John’s. Testing capacity is “comfortable,” she said, so St. John’s will continue testing surgery patients prior to procedures. It is also continuing to conduct random COVID testing for employees. More than 200 employees have been tested so far and all tests have come back negative.

On the other hand, she was “concerned” about new data that shows many people are skipping cancer screening. More than 400 women in Teton County did not get scheduled for regular mammograms, in large part because the unit was down for several weeks. Many have rescheduled, but “we want to make sure they all do.”

“Early detection saves lives,” Connelly said.

Tourism by the numbers looks bleak, but current numbers don’t tell the full story, said Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Anna Olson. The booking window for hotels is now just seven days or less.

“It’s very difficult to anticipate what will actually happen,” Olson said. According to the current books, June bookings are at just 19.4% compared to 76% last year. But last-minute Memorial Day bookings brought the town up to 60-70% occupancy. June could still turn around.

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