Empty Town Square

Parking spaces at Jackson Town Square were almost devoid of cars at mid-day Thursday after many businesses were forced to shutter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A verdict has been reached in the county’s quest for a stay-at-home order to combat COVID-19.

Teton County residents are now required — not asked — to limit their interactions to those in their household, save for activities approved by state and county health officials.

“For all intents and purposes, it is a stay-at-home order,” Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell said Tuesday after receiving the state’s approval for the decree.

Wyoming’s coronavirus case count grew by 25 on Tuesday to a total of 120.

The increase saw Laramie County become the county hardest hit by the coronavirus, with its case numbers growing to 27, followed by Fremont County with 25 and Teton County with 23.

By requiring people to limit contacts to those within their household, the most recent declaration, the 14th to come down from local and state governments in less than a month, is intended to make people stay home.

Residents are now required to stop interacting with people they don’t live with except when engaging in six activities: obtaining health care; shopping for groceries; delivering necessary supplies; recreating outdoors while maintaining 6 feet of distance; caring for pets or family members in other households; and, in a departure from recent orders, traveling to and working at businesses if work can’t be done from home.

The order is also silent on which businesses are essential, something the town of Jackson’s stay-at-home order weighed in on, allowing only those deemed as such to continue operating.

But on Tuesday, town councilors revoked Jackson’s order, taking its more restrictive business regulations to the legislative graveyard. Businesses not impacted by the state’s three orders in effect until April 17 can continue to operate, so long as those who can work remotely do so.

Orders and recommendations are attached to the online version of this article at JHNewsAndGuide.com, along with a sidebar explaining the four decrees that still apply.

For days, town officials suggested they would be willing to repeal their ordinance if Riddell was able to wrestle state approval for a similar, countywide stay-at-home order. The doctor submitted a replica of the town of Jackson’s stay-at-home order to the state Sunday.

That document was retooled into the version approved Tuesday, which Riddell said was “absolutely a compromise.”

“I think it’s the best that we are going to get from the state for the time being,” he said.

State Health Officer Alexia Harrist is required to sign off on county health orders. She was not, Riddell said, ready to close businesses other than those closed by the governor’s orders.

Riddell didn’t feel like that was “quite as tight an approach” as the Jackson order offered. He and the town attorney drafted it to roll over into a countywide document.

“But it was what the state was willing to do, so here we are,” he said.

Town officials said they decided to repeal their order to streamline things.

“What the goal has been all along, for me, is to make this countywide,” Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson said. The county order, she added, is “cleaner.”

Likewise, Councilor Jim Stanford said: “For the sake of the community, having a consistent message is helpful.”

He also noted that “there were elements I liked better about the town ordinance,” but he sided with revoking the town’s order for “the sake of consistency and clarity.”

The only local order in place now is the county-wide ban on interacting with others outside your household, save for those six essential activities. Three state orders and two countywide recommendations also apply. Orders are enforceable by law. Recommendations, including those for visitors and second-home owners to either leave or not visit Teton County, are not.

While the countywide order does not explicitly use the phrase “stay at home,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said the message is the same “whether or not it says ‘stay at home order’ in the title.”

“Everyone should stay at home in their households and not gather in groups,” he said. “That’s fundamentally what all of this is about.”

Riddell acknowledged that some people have been doing so for weeks. That has more or less been officials’ recommendation since the get-go.

An order makes the case for doing so “stronger and ratchets up the volume a notch,” Ridell said. “It makes it enforceable and as powerful as we can make it, and we feel like that’s what we need to do.”

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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