When the dust settled, 1,355 tests for COVID-19 were administered during a community testing event Thursday at Teton County Fairgrounds.

Turnout for the event was much higher than anticipated. Teton County Health Department officials had estimated that 300 tests might be administered, and were surprised to have performed more than triple that number by 5:30 p.m., with 90 minutes left to go.

By 10:30 a.m., a stream of Jackson residents waited in lines for around an hour for their turn.

At the entrance to the fairgrounds, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Captain Lily Sullivan and fellow team members greeted each car. She said the influx of cars began long before setup was complete. Workers surmised that many residents wanted to be tested before heading to work.

A few drivers were asked to take a lap or two around the fairgrounds before coming back to the entrance to keep traffic from backing up onto Snow King Avenue.

Erika Edmiston, waiting her turn at the first station, said her employer, Teton County Weed and Pest, had asked its workers to get swabbed.

“I think everyone should come out and get tested today,” Edmiston said.

But she also came for personal reasons: She’s the only family member who has been leaving the house, and she figured that if she tests negative, her two children are in the clear, too.

The fairground setup had seven lanes that eventually narrowed to two paperwork stations. Once paperwork was complete, vehicles were ushered to the next station where health workers collected nasal secretions.

Swabs are long, thin sticks with cotton tips. The end of the applicator screws into a tube to protect the sample.

“It was pretty uncomfortable,” said resident Garrett LeRoy. “I was mentally prepared but not physically prepared.”

The first station, paperwork, was most responsible for the long wait.

“Usually paperwork is our choke point,” said Adrian Croke of the Teton County Health Department.

People typically have questions, she said, and paperwork is different for free tests versus those covered by insurance, because they are sent to different labs for analysis: LabCorp or the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory. Results are expected back in three to five days.

Kathie Chandler decided that she and her husband should get tested after taking a trip to Salt Lake City to pick up a new member of the family — a rescue dog named Marley. Chandler said they slept in their car overnight instead of getting a hotel and took other precautions, but nevertheless she was worried that they might have been exposed.

“I just want to do my part staying healthy and safe,” Chandler said, despite the unappetizing prospect of getting a stick up her nose. “I’m gonna buck up.”

This was accompanied by a short, determined nod. Croke joked that “no one’s screaming yet,” so Chandler would probably be fine.

This version of the article has been updated to reflect the total from the entire day of testing. — Ed.

Contact Lillian Bissell via intern@jhnewsandguide.com.

(2) comments

Susan Crosser

Why are we hearing 35% have COVID with no symptoms ? That's what I want identified - Just how many people have NO symptoms, but are contagious ? Unfortunately, someone really screwed the pooch on the timing. Should definitely have been before Memorial Day Weekend if we were looking for a statistical sample that might be applied to the community. I know we didn't test the tourists, but the results we get may be indicative of the large influx of non-mask wearing visitors. Also, If we REALLY were trying to understand the infection rate in the community, the testing should have been at least a month ago. By now, asymptomatic people are probably recovered and the PCR test won't show that. Does Dr. Sugden disagree with the multiple statements of 35-40% of people infected will show no symptoms ? Does he know whether or not asymptomatic sufferers will only created asymptomatic sufferers? I certainly haven't seen that claim anywhere. I certainly hope that the people who joined the testing process aren't sick, but I don't understand Dr. Sugden focusing only on people with symptoms, while we are being told there has been a large percentgage of asymptomatic carriers. It seems as though he is stating that ALL people infected with COVID WILL have symptoms. True or False. I will agree, that unless you've been in contact with the tourists, chances are quite good that you won't catch it from others in the community. That window has passed, and that frustrates me. Good thing we skated through the practice round. But as a community reliant on millions of people from other locations, is there a chance that we're going to get some who are asymptomatic?

Richard Sugden

Not sure I understand the reasoning behind the testing, from the tested individuals viewpoint. This is a viral antigen test .. it shows if you are CURRENTLY infected with the virus ... If you have no symptoms of COVID then your chance of being infected is only one to three percent ... That is, 97%+ chance the test will be negative from studies done around the world for epidemiology purposes. If the state/county/city were doing a study, and paying for the test, it would certainly make sense ... but for individuals to pay for the tests to find out if they are CURRENTLY infected really doesn't - unless they CURRENTLY have symptoms.... I doubt that the 1,000 folks that showed up were sick !!

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