JACKSON, Wyo. — During the COVID-19 community update this afternoon, Teton District Health Officer, Dr. Travis Riddell announced the news of the second case of a person in Teton County testing positive for the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, also known as the UK variant. Dr. Riddell said, “as far as we can tell it is not related to the other case in any way, pending a case investigation.”
During this afternoon’s meeting, Dr. Ridell briefed the community on the new variant that was discovered in Teton County on Jan. 16, he said, “We are still learning about it” and discussed how the variant is, “50 to 75% more transmittable.” The new variant can only be determined through genetic sequencing, but most labs that are running COVID-19 tests do not have the capability of doing genetic sequencing, explained Dr. Riddell.
Without being able to test every COVID-19 test for the variant, “we really have no way of knowing unfortunately how widespread this variant is compared to other strains,” said Riddell. “We have to assume it will continue to spread here, if you have COVID you should assume it’s the more contagious strain and you should take actions to try to prevent that spread,” he said.
Dr. Riddell explained what is known about the variant, saying, “All the things we have been talking about all along, work with this variant, isolating when you are sick, quarantining when you have been in contact with someone who is sick, masking, distancing, handwashing, as a result of the surge in cases and the threat posed by this variant, we are again asking that you not gather with people outside your household group.”
Teton County Health Director, Jodi Pond, MPH, echoed this sentiment with a reminder about proper mask-wearing. She outlined the types of masks that protect community members the best, noting that buffs are not enough. “At a minimum, a two-ply tightly woven cloth mask, a surgical mask, and then above that a KN-95 which are also available. We are continuing to ask people to not wear N95 masks,” said Pond, adding, “These things work with the variant, you just have to do them 100%.”
“The Chamber of Commerce still has hundreds of thousands of masks,” said Anna Olson, President/CEO of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, “please make sure you reach out to us. We can coordinate any volume.”
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