Teton County’s surge in cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus has triggered a new mask mandate indoors on federal land, regardless of vaccination status.
That’s a lot of buildings in a 2.7 million-acre county that is 97% federal land and that houses Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, parts of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee national forests and Yellowstone National Park.
The change took place Wednesday in response to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that even fully vaccinated people wear face coverings indoors in public areas where there’s “substantial” or “high” transmission of COVID-19. The risk level in Teton County is currently ranked “high.”
“We’ll keep on following this guidance until we hear otherwise,” National Elk Refuge Manager Frank Durbian told the Jackson Hole Daily.
On refuge property, the change is most impactful for the public at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache Street. Signage went up Wednesday explaining the renewed requirement, and masks were made available for those who didn’t have them, Durbian said.
There are implications for Jackson Hole’s federal workforce: “Everybody who’s not in their own individual closed office will have to wear masks in spaces shared by all the employees, so the break room and the conference room,” Durbian said. “Nothing we haven’t done already.”
In Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the requirement applies to all buildings, including those managed by concessionaires, like Jackson Lake Lodge and the Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch.
“We’ve got signs up now,” Teton Park Chief of Staff Jeremy Barnum said. “We put it out on social media, we updated our website and we’re trying to get the word out.”
In Yellowstone, too, be prepared to have a mask handy. Teton County covers the southern reaches of the world’s first national park, where developed areas also fall within Park County. The level of community transmission in Park County, where only 45% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, is classified by the CDC as “substantial.”