Jackson Hole Rodeo Finals

Brandon Wilson explains parts of a saddle to tourists during the Jackson Hole Rodeo Finals last September at the Teton County Fairgrounds. His father, Phil, said pre-sale tickets for the rodeo were the highest they’ve ever been before the COVID-19 pandemic forced refunds.

Let 'er buck! The Jackson Hole Rodeo will go on.

If you were sad you might miss tiny children in chaps chasing sheep around the arena, have no fear. Teton County District Heath Officer Travis Riddell announced Friday that the rodeo has permission to entertain crowds of up to 600 people, who will be spread out across the various bleachers and grandstands.

“They’ve received an exemption from the 250-person limit such that they can operate under some I think really well thought out and well planned guidelines and rules,” Riddell said at Friday’s community update.

The variance granted to the Jackson Hole Rodeo is similar to exceptions granted to long-standing rodeos around the state, including the Cody Stampede. Statewide orders that will be updated Monday allow indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people.

Rodeo manager Phil Wilson previously told the Jackson Hole News&Guide he hadn’t yet found the break-even number for spectators, but it’s likely that 600 tickets sold will look a lot better than 250. As it stands the rodeo is set to be twice a week in June once it begins, then three times a week in July and August before finals in early September.

Large events like the rodeo need permission to exceed the state’s 250-person limit. Black Lives Matter protests are still subject to that limit, Riddell said, though the Monday night gathering on Town Square eclipsed that number.

Protests can be regulated under the statewide orders, but Riddell noted the situation is a bit more nuanced than simply not allowing more than 250 people to join the next demonstration, a march set for 4 p.m. Sunday.

“There are very specific constitutional rights that go along with gathering,” he said. “And I think that the local law enforcement are balancing those issues now.”

Even though protests may fall under the scope of statewide limits, churches will be exempt under the rules that go into place Monday. Religious gatherings have been a source of contention on the national scale, with President Donald Trump encouraging state governors to remove them from restrictions.

Some states, like Florida and Georgia, started reopening churches weeks ago. Others, including Wyoming, have taken a slower approach. But starting Monday congregants can find themselves again in the pews.

“We would obviously encourage people gathering for religious reasons to follow those physical distancing protocols, mask wearing, etc.,” Riddell said.

Larger crowd sizes come on the heels of some heartening news. The Teton County Health Department’s community testing event yielded no positive results. Public health coordinator Rachael Wheeler presented, saying the testing event had 1,346 total participants.

Though the department is waiting on a few outstanding tests, the bulk of the results show the community successfully flattened the viral curve.

Teton County’s active case count had dipped to zero late last week, but four new cases were identified this week. St. John’s Health spokeswoman Karen Connelly said at the update that none are hospitalized at St. John’s.

“We were expecting this as more people are traveling to our area for vacation or work, and as more of our residents leave the valley to travel and then return,” Wheeler said.

This article has been updated to show the latest case count in Teton County. — Ed.

Two of those cases were “imported,” meaning the person brought the virus from outside the county, Wheeler said, while one was due to community spread. Health care officials expect the case count could increase due to the movement of people, but say contact tracing remains an important tool as businesses reopen.

Antibody tests that determine whether someone had COVID-19 in the past have shown similar results.

Test Teton Now, a nonprofit facilitating antibody testing, released its first trove of data. Of 1.033 tests, 3.1% showed antibodies. St. John’s Health found in its own antibody testing that in first responders and health care workers, just 1.4% were positive.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

(2) comments

Susan Crosser

With regard to the antibody testing, were any asymptomatc? Was the hospital able to correctly identify the first responders with COVID and quarantine them ? Had the hospital identified via antibody testing also been PCR tested, and have the PCR tests and antibody tests been in sync?

Susan Crosser

if two cases imported, a hotel in NOT an appropriate place to quarantine. So rather than one case, four popped up this week, and none are hospitalized. A store has the right to "no shoes, no shirt, no service". Why shouldn't they be able to say "no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service" ? I think they have the right.

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