Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

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Rick Howe has a story about a close call that shows just how easily the coronavirus can spread.

The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce vice president was invited to a small gathering of friends just before Halloween. He and his wife decided not to go. It was supposed to be an outdoor affair, but at some point in the night, folks went inside to play cards.

Four adults and three children at the gathering ended up with COVID-19. Since they didn’t know they were infected right away, they went to school and work in the ensuing days. Howe told the story to illustrate the current difficulty regarding the pandemic.

“The virus is looking for those very gatherings,” he said at Friday’s community update. “It’ll sit and wait. It’ll wait for us; it doesn’t care if we’ve been good for nine months, for six months, for seven months.”

Because of the potential for situations like that across the county, in which people become exposed then interact with others before they show symptoms, Howe said, viral spread makes it harder to keep businesses open.

The longer this spike persists, the harder it becomes to maintain winter tourism.

“The key to having any kind of an economy this winter is going to be our health metrics,” he said.

Those health numbers are still far above the levels public officials are hoping for, but they have shown positive movement in the past few weeks. Since peaking in mid-November, numbers of new daily cases in Wyoming have declined by 41%, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

As of Tuesday, the state had 4,398 active cases and was reporting 280 deaths from the virus, though there is often a lag in how fatalities are tallied. On Monday, St. John’s Health confirmed Teton County’s third coronavirus-related death and the first at the hospital. That death has not yet shown up in the state’s count.

In Teton County, which has 101 new daily cases per 100,000 people, the rate of new cases has declined, though not as sharply as at the state level. On Tuesday evening, active cases stood at 142. According to the most current figures provided, St. John’s Health had nine COVID-19 patients in the primary care unit and one in the intensive care unit.

Hospitalizations at St. John’s are a bit lower than their high in the past couple weeks. In December, statewide hospitalization numbers have dropped by 16.6% from 247 to 206.

As more people contract COVID-19, the likelihood of knowing someone with the disease increases. As that happens, Howe said, it puts the pandemic in a different light, humanizing the numbers.

“So just know it’s real,” he said Friday.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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