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The first COVID-19 community update since May will be held tomorrow, Sept. 1 at noon. Photo: Martin Sanchez

JACKSON, Wyo. — As of July 29, 2021, the state of Wyoming has moved Teton County into the moderate transmission level due to a rise in local COVID metrics and the presence of the highly contagious delta variant.

According to Teton County Health Department Public Health Response Coordinator Rachael Wheeler, the delta variant of COVID-19 is present in Teton County.

“Last week we did have our first lab-confirmed case that was the delta variant in the valley,” said Wheeler.

With an uptick in cases, the CDC has changed its course on indoor mask-wearing.

“This new mask-wearing guidance from the CDC is recommending that depending on if your area has substantial or high transmission, no matter your vaccine status you should wear a mask inside in public indoor settings,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler explained that mask-wearing guidance mostly looks at transmission indicators, whereas overall COVID risk levels look at other things like hospitalizations, community spread and contract tracing capabilities. In order to understand mask-wearing guidance, she recommended that individuals people look at the state’s transmission indicators.

The CDC said on Tuesday at least 63% of U.S. counties are considered substantial or high risk. Wheeler explained that this is due to the highly transmissible nature of the delta variant.

When determining new guidance, Wyoming looks at cases per 100,000, the percentage of tests that come back positive, and current active cases. Based on that, they put Teton County in orange. In this specific indication, the CDC said that any county in yellow, orange, or red should recommend mask-wearing in public indoor settings.

“With the delta variant, people are having a much higher viral load, which means they are building up a lot of virus in their system and are able to expose and potentially infect a lot more people.We are seeing people getting symptoms sooner after being exposed than we were before.”

Wheeler reminded that although cases are rising it does not prove vaccine inefficacy.

“I will just reiterate that even though we are seeing more cases, vaccines are working. Getting vaccinated is one of the best tools to protect yourself and your family. Again, the vaccines are meant to protect you from severe illness, hospitalization and death and we are seeing that. A large number of our cases are unvaccinated individuals.”

Additionally, Wheeler mentioned how quarantine measures now differ between unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals.

“If people do have symptoms the only way to know is to test and TCHD is still very much encouraging testing if an individual experiences any type of symptoms.”

The CDC is now recommending that vaccinated individuals test between days three and five for a known exposure with someone who had COVID-19. They recommend that people wear masks in public indoor settings if they have been exposed and are awaiting test results.

If fully vaccinated individuals don’t have symptoms the CDC says they do not need to quarantine.

Additionally, the White House announced that in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission, federal agencies now must mandate masks indoors in federal buildings for all employees and visitors regardless of vaccination status.

This mandate follows guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas of high transmission.

While an uptick in cases is discouraging, it is bound to occur with a contagious virus as such.

In March of 2021, Buckrail spoke with Teton County Health Director Jodie Pond about the threat of COVID-19 that will remain for years to come.

“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,” said Pond.

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Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter. She's a lover of alliteration, easy-to-follow recipes and board games when everyone knows the rules. Her favorite aspect about living in the Tetons is the collective admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.