St. John’s Health has 47 employees quarantined, with 24 COVID-19 positive.
Jackson Hole’s hospital also has 14 patients fighting the virus, not including one “incredibly sick” individual flown to Idaho Falls on Thursday, CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre said.
Speaking during Friday’s livestreamed coronavirus community update, Beaupre said the hospital admitted 52 patients with COVID-19 in November; that’s in contrast to the five prior months when the hospital saw a total of 64 patients admitted.
“We just about admitted in one month, last month, what we had taken care of the entire five months before that,” Beaupre said.
Earlier Friday, the Jackson Town Council approved an emergency resolution asking people to limit gatherings within town limits to members of the same household. The council’s action came on the heels of warnings from public health officials, including Beaupre, that St. John’s is at capacity and at risk of being “overrun” as cases climb.
The recommendation serves as a bridge as the town waits approval of a variance from the state to make limiting gatherings enforceable.
The council also voted to instruct Town Manager Larry Pardee to have the Jackson Police Department ramp up enforcement of the existing mask order and issue citations where probable cause is found.
According to Acting Police Chief Michelle Weber, County Attorney Erin Weisman has said her office will prosecute mask-order offenders who are charged by police.
The town resolution supports advice from county health officials. Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell on Friday issued a new recommendation that aligns with what the Town Council approved, saying any in-person socializing should be with only people who live under one roof to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“The reason I use the word ‘household’ instead of family unit is because we do have such large [groups of] seasonal workers that live under the same roof,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond told the council Tuesday. “What we’re talking about is people that sleep under your roof ... the people that you don’t worry about when you go home at night.”
The recommendation, which also covers areas outside of town limits, will stand until Dec. 15. Like the Town Council’s resolution, it does not apply to gatherings for school or work, only social gatherings and extracurricular activities.
Public health recommendations do not have the teeth of an order, in that there is no penalty for not following it. However, the recommendation shows that officials like Riddell are serious about limiting social behavior.
“This is a targeted intervention with a limited timeframe and clear goal,” he said. “Let’s come together to help our hospital, so it can remain available to help us in turn.
“We did this in the spring and effectively eliminated detectable COVID from our community,” he said. “We can do it again. Please, let’s save lives and our winter economy.”
In response to a question posed by Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter about what steps needed to be taken over the next couple of weeks to flatten the curve of infections, Pond said people need to follow the health recommendations.
Wearing masks whenever in public or in close quarters with other people is an issue that has “been settled” and demonstrated as an effective deterrent for transmission of the coronavirus, Pond said.
“They work,” she said, “but it doesn’t work if you don’t wear a mask.”
Pond pleaded for people to take personal responsibility, particularly with Christmas break approaching.
Mayor Pete Muldoon went a step further. After reading aloud a submitted comment from Mike Kitchen of Teton Pines Resort and Country Club, in which Kitchen said the resort was suspending reopening of its dine-in service to help the community get past the pandemic, Muldoon proposed that other restaurants also voluntarily halt dine-in service.
“Do the right thing,” Muldoon said. “You can tell the community that you’re doing it so you can give back. The community will remember your business for doing that — your employees will sing your praises and redouble their loyalty — and our community will be safer.”
During the afternoon briefing, Beaupre said St. John’s Health expects to received 976 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine sometime in the last week of December. Only 220 doses will be available for Teton County, with the rest to be distributed to outlying counties.
It’s expected that the Moderna vaccine will be available shortly after the Pfizer vaccine, Beaupre said. He characterized that as good news because, unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, the Moderna shot does not have to be stored at minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be reconstituted and administered more easily.
— Tom Hallberg contributed to this report.