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.

Good news about the coronavirus isn’t limited to recently approved vaccines.

Since active cases reached record heights in mid-November, they’ve fallen considerably, reducing viral transmission to a manageable-but-still-concerning level. At Friday’s community update Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell said Teton County is seeing less than 20 new cases per day.

“That’s a big improvement,” he said. “And it’s all because of the choices people are making throughout Teton County right now.”

New cases have fallen 44% in the past two weeks, according to a dashboard maintained by The New York Times. The county’s rate of new daily cases Wednesday was 57 per 100,000 people; during the worst of the November spike it was nearly 150 per 100,000 people.

Riddell attributed the decline to changes in people’s behavior, spurred by the record case counts or health officials’ entreaties to interact indoors only with people you live with. New state health orders that went into effect Dec. 9 reduced indoor gathering sizes to just 10 people.

Just before that, Riddell had submitted a request for a health order that would have limited local gatherings to just households. The state order put that on hold, and instead he issued a recommendation with the same request but no legal penalty.

Though it’s impossible to know exactly how much of a difference the individual orders and requests made, Riddell thinks people took them to heart, helping the county to curb the growth of the pandemic.

“Our contact tracing team now has manageable numbers of cases that they can really do both the contact investigation and the tracing part,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said Friday.

Pond has said previously that about 20 cases a day is the maximum her team can handle when it comes to contact tracing. That helps them catch cases earlier and, ideally, limit the number of people each infectious individual interacts with.

The Wyoming Department of Health reported that Teton County had six new cases Wednesday and 70 active cases. Numbers like that have driven the county’s test positivity rate down to 5.5% in the past two weeks, according to the dashboard.

The test positivity rate shows how well the county is doing at catching active cases: Higher rates indicate more potential for community spread.

The World Health Organization recommends that communities work to keep their test positivity rate below 5%. Teton County’s recent 5.5% is the closest it has come to meeting that recommendation in the past couple of months.

The good news is tempered by the fact that Teton County is still in the red, high-risk zone by most measures. To keep the momentum going over the Christmas holiday, health officials say people should keep in mind the recommendation to interact only with people from their households.

“Every single time there’s a holiday we do see surges,” Pond said. “It would be such a shame to, you know, let your guard down at this moment in time because you think this is in the rearview mirror.”

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.

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