Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Transmission electron micrograph of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. 

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.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

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.

(3) comments

Susan Crosser

So we are again in short supply of test kits. How long is a kit valid for ? We went through 1300 right after Memorial Day in a "community testing day" that was a farce. There was no benefit to the community. If we had not used all those kits at the end of May, would they still be usable now ? I've been trying to put together a set of quotes from the hospital and others showing the contradictory nature of the information that was being given to the community. Didn't realize it had happened so many times, so it's taking me longer than expected. One of these days the board will realize that "empire building" is a losing game. We just don't have the volume. Our small, rural hospital needs to be competent in doing what the community needs on an ongoing basis. The pandemic was unprecedented, so there were bound to be mistakes. That's just the way it is. Hopefully it is being used by the hospital and health department as a good learning experience. There was no point in telling the community that SJH could handle ventilated patients. EIRMC spokesman said specifically that they were taking as transfers patients for whom SJH could not provide an appropriate level of care. Why the inability to admit there are limitations to a small rural hospital. The whole testing fiasco was one of them. Somehow NO ONE at the health department or hospital could look at the dates and statistics and realize they had missed the window ? Up to 40% of virus spread is comng from asymptomatic people, but again, no testing of them, even as they recognize that locals traveling out of state and then returning may be bringing it with them. 40% that they say aren't worth testing, because yet again, there is a shortage of kits. Did we help to create the shortage?

Ken Chison

Reading the prior article, it seems that as long as young people congregate in large groups, and protest all in the name of black lives matter, they are pretty much immune to the virus. This from the medical experts at the New York Times and the Seattle Times.

JOhn Smothers

its all common sense. If you feel sick. Stay home. You have a cough, sore throat, and common cold stuff STAY HOME!!!

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