Community spread is back.
Public health officials hammered that home during Friday’s COVID-19 update, saying the bulk of new cases don’t have a known origin. That suggests the community failing to take preventive measures, particularly among younger people.
“I’m also quite concerned that this group will end up transmitting this disease across the population over time into other groups,” Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell said. “That seems to be what’s happening in other parts of the country.”
Young people account for a disproportionate number of the recent cases in Teton County, and the officials who spoke at this week’s update ascribed to them an attitude of invincibility. Increased socializing could be to blame for spikes in community spread, they said, especially if people aren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
Though younger people are less likely to have a serious reaction to the coronavirus, they could be the source of another surge that leads to a rash of adverse cases.
In other communities, Riddell said, spikes of cases among younger people have led to increased prevalence of the disease in older people, and then to more hospitalizations and deaths.
In addition, just because young people are less likely to have serious reactions to the virus doesn’t mean it’s never harmful.
“Unfortunately we still don’t know what the long-term sequelae is from having this virus,” St. John’s Health CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre said, referring to the aftereffects of COVID-19.
The increase in cases in Teton County comes at an unfortunate time, as testing supplies are becoming scarcer. Following the initial outbreak this spring, test kits were readily available, but with COVID-19 cases spiking in most states, that is no longer the case.
St. John’s administrators are trying to procure testing supplies, but given the state of affairs they are prioritizing testing, Beaupre said. Asymptomatic people likely won’t be able to be tested, so those who present with symptoms can be.
With increased cases and decreased availability of testing, Beaupre emphasized a message that has been consistent since early in the pandemic:
“Be smart, stay safe, socially distance and wear a mask,” he said.