Novel coronavirus

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (red) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

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Teton County is leading the state with some unfortunate COVID-19 statistics.

In a letter appealing for a more restrictive variance to state health orders, Teton County District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell said that of 733 COVID-19 tests conducted in Teton County, 9.4% came back positive — more than double the statewide rate of 4.5%. That high rate might indicate inadequate testing and a higher level of unidentified cases, he wrote.

Similarly, Riddell pointed to a few other state-leading statistics to justify a stricter local order, such as:

• The county’s “attack rate” of 277 per 100,000 residents is the highest of any county in Wyoming, more than four times the statewide rate.

• With 10 Teton County residents who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection having been admitted to St. John’s Health and another four having been admitted “to higher level units in other facilities,” the county’s hospitalization rate stands at more than 21% of confirmed cases.

• Over the weekend, the county reported two new lab-confirmed cases, bringing total cases, confirmed and probable, to 98. So far, the county is reporting 88 recovered and one death.

State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist signed Riddell’s proposed order, which keeps gyms, nail and hair salons, barbershops and a number of other personal service businesses closed through May 11. Other businesses, such as retails shops, may open as long as current health orders are followed.

“It’s really important that if you are a business that you do understand what you can do right now, and what you should be prepared to do going forward,” Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce President Anna Olson said.

Businesses that want to get more deeply involved in reopening plans can join one of four focus groups under the Economic Recovery Task Force by contacting Rick Howe at

Hospital resumes operations

One such business moving toward normal operations is St. John’s Health, which suspended elective surgeries more than a month ago. Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly stressed that “elective” doesn’t capture the medical necessity of some procedures that were on pause and reiterated that the hospital had the capacity and supplies to start reopening its doors.

In the past week, she said, St. John’s Health had the testing capacity and personal protective equipment to safely conduct about 40 procedures.

As of Friday, Connelly reported that the hospital had one COVID-19-probable patient in the primary care unit. Last week, the hospital reported two patients who had been transferred to out-of-state hospitals and remained on ventilators; their condition remains the same, Connelly said Friday.

Connelly and Fire Chief Brady Hansen stressed that Jackson Hole Fire/EMS personnel and the hospital can safely treat non-COVID-19 cases.

“We have heard of a few cases where people have delayed calls to EMS or to a hospital because of the COVID-19 situation and fear,” Hansen said. “If you are having chest pain or if you are having anything else that you would normally call a doctor, that you would normally call EMS or first responders for ... please do so and don’t delay.”

Hungry? Help is available

One day last week, the Jackson Cupboard had the largest day in its history, according to Laurie Andrews, president of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.

Likewise, the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole served 801 meals in a single evening in recent weeks.

More than 2,000 people have applied to One22 for help with their bills during the pandemic, and the nonprofit has granted out over $1.5 million, Andrews said during Friday’s community update. That number dwarfs the nonprofit’s typical demand for assistance, which ranges from 100 to 200 requests in a given year.

Anyone needing food assistance should visit for information in English and Spanish.

“We have the ability to get food to someone every day right now, actually multiple options,” Andrews said. “I would just really encourage people to go to that website and use those different resources.”

Contact Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington at 732-7078 or

Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington has worked for newspapers across the West. She hosts a rescue podcast, The Fine Line. Her family minivan doubles as her not-so-high-tech recording studio.

(2) comments

Susan Crosser

7, not 4, were sent out of town. If only 4 should be counted, then 3 were not suffering from COVID but were transferred (perhaps due to pneumonia). If only 10 cases were hospitalized, but the hospital is claiming they hospitalized 55 related, what happened to the 26 negative cases (I misspoke in first posting, it was 26 negative and 11 positive at one point when 37 were hospitalized). And apparently another 18 were not actually COVID. Yes, statistics are way off and the % of COVID means nothing because we aren't bothering to test and truly identify asymptomatic COVID patients.

Susan Crosser

Here we go again. How can 11 with negative COVID results also be probable COVID cases? Why weren't admitted patients tested ? They sent more than 4 out of state.

One of which was Bill Sweney. They were admitting "probable cases" due to an abundance of caution, and keep insisting that the 11 that actually tested negative are "COVID related", and at the same time, sent Bill Sweney home to self-isolate until he was so sick he was immediately airlifted out. And the hospital still says don't get tested unless you have symptoms, so everyone who is asymptomatic is unidentified.

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