Don’t take off those masks just yet.
Though many health orders have been relaxed and some businesses have begun to open, the majority of the community should continue to wear masks, health officials stressed at Friday’s community COVID-19 update.
Doing so, they said, will help control the spread of the coronavirus, which in addition to keeping people healthy will keeps businesses open.
Teton County District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell said one model showed that 80% of community members wearing masks where close contact is possible would amount to a 12-fold decrease in disease transmission.
“However, if only 30% or 40% of people in the community wear masks,” Riddell said, “transmission rates are really minimally affected.”
Likewise, Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said research indicates that wearing masks can keep the community infection rate low enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19, since the key transmission route for the coronavirus responsible for the illness is droplets “that fly out of our mouth.”
Even a cotton mask can block 99% of those virus-tainted droplets, she said.
“Each one of us,” she said, “has the power to halt this disease in its tracks.” But only if nearly everyone goes along with wearing masks.
COVID-19 has been hard to control partly because people start spreading it before they show symptoms.
“Three recent studies show that nearly half of patients are infected by people who aren’t coughing or sneezing yet,” Pond said. “We can make a difference. Please wear a mask in public.”
Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon pointed out that everybody in Town Hall for the Friday update was wearing a mask.
Gopaul Noojibail, acting superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, confirmed the park will open at noon Monday for day use, the same time as Yellowstone National Park. Visitors will be able to access park roads, pathways, trails and some restrooms.
Noojibail said the park has increased its custodial staff to ensure there are enough people to sanitize park bathrooms on a more frequent schedule during this first phase of reopening.
With most services still closed for now, visitors are likely to bring their own food. The park asks visitors who pack in picnics to remember to also pack out their trash. Having visitors handle their own trash is another way to reduce points of contact for spreading coronavirus, Noojibail said.
“Visitors are going to be urged to be responsible and to do their part,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to be the social distancing police, but we are going to do everything we can to make sure that visitors understand what the expectation is going to be.”
Noojibail emphasized that park staff will model desired distancing behaviors, including maintaining 6 feet between others and spreading the message about safe practices via social media and other channels.