Town and County cancel three major spring events

JACKSON, Wyo. — The irony was not lost on the room full of people crowded in the town council chambers as Town Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson read COVID-19 recommendations from the CDC: “crowds should not gather.”

But so it was that town council chambers filled to the brim at 11 a.m. Thursday with people eager to hear and offer comments on coronavirus and its potential spread in Teton County.

“You don’t have to be a connoisseur of irony to understand that there’s not much social isolation going on right now,” said Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter.

The motion on the floor was whether to revoke event permits and thereby cancel three major events coming up this spring: the Hill Climb, Octane Additions, and the Rendezvous Music Fest.

The decision was a unanimous yes among town councilors and county commissioners.

“We’re not shutting the town down when we do this,” said Councilor Arne Jorgensen. “We’re simply reducing the risk.”

The decision came after more than an hour of discussion and public comment, primarily from St. John’s Health CEO Paul Beaupre and Teton County Public Health Director Jodie Pond. The question, they agreed, was not if COVID-19 would arrive in Teton County, but when. Beaupre suspected it’s already here, though there are still no confirmed cases. And assuming it does hit here, it then becomes a matter of resources.

Beaupre said the hospital is equipped with two-three months worth of personal protective equipment, primarily N95 face masks — but that’s assuming everyone follows St. John’s new protocol that asks anyone who feels sick not to go to the doctor, but instead call the designated call line. If COVID-19 positive patients do visit the ER and expose unprotected staff, “we’ll be out of protective devices in a very short time.”

For Pond, it’s about getting ahead of the outbreak before it’s out of control. The CDC is not officially recommending canceling events, but is recommending people socially isolate. Our healthcare system has the capacity to handle coronavirus if we take preventative measures, she said. If we do nothing, “as a nation, the system will be overwhelmed.”

“By taking these measures, it allows us to care for our most sick,” Pond said.

Neither Pond nor Beaupre explicitly directed town and county to cancel events, but Teton County Emergency Coordinator Rich Ochs did. “I’ll be the unpopular one — I think we should shut down special events,” he said.

Representatives of each event all commented that they would support whatever decision the boards made.

The vote means the Hill Climb, Octane Addictions, and the Rendezvous Music Fest on the Town Square are called off. Commissioners also voted to revoke permits for The Quarter Cookout at the Stilson lot March 21.

Bob Weir announced this morning that he rescheduling his entire tour.

Jackson Hole Food & Wine has also canceled Taste of the Tetons scheduled for Friday, and Grand Dynamics just announced that Ultimate Towner has been canceled.

This is a developing story. It will be updated with more information and public comment. 

An earlier version of this story stated that Taste of the Tetons was scheduled for tonight. It was scheduled for Friday and was canceled this morning. 

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