Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. The black area in the image is extracellular space between the cells. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

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Local authorities have seen a need for an isolated, safe place for people to quarantine and, now, thanks to $25,000 from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, they’ll be able to have one.

The grant, which will help the Jackson/Teton County Housing Department and Teton County Health Department rent six rooms for three months, will go “a long way,” Housing Director April Norton told county commissioners Tuesday.

The idea is to give people who are either diagnosed with COVID-19 or a close contact of somebody who has been diagnosed a place to stay if they are not able to effectively isolate or quarantine away from either their roommates or family members. Continuing to stay in a situation where that’s not possible could increase the risk of transmitting the virus.

Finding places to go for people in that situation has been a challenge, Norton told the News&Guide on Friday. While the housing and health departments have used hotel rooms on occasion, the grant provides local officials an easier, more efficient solution that will be free for those who use it.

“Most of the people using this service are already financially extended,” Public Health Coordinator Rachael Wheeler said, “so we would work with them to see if they were willing to stay in this alternative location.”

Norton said some funding to support quarantine housing could probably come down to Teton County through the CARES Act, but “not immediately.”

“We needed something immediate,” she said, adding that being able to turn to the Community Foundation was “amazing.”

The grant, Norton said, is just one of a series of collaborations that have sprung up among government and community organizations like the health and housing departments and nonprofits such as One22 as the COVID-19 pandemic has charted its course through the valley.

One of those people, Norton told commissioners, was a 14-year-old child who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and lived in a one-bedroom home with seven people, including grandparents.

“We had to figure out where to put a minor child,” Norton said: “Where do they go, what does that look like?”

The group has been meeting on a regular basis, Norton said, to identify emerging trends and brainstorm solutions for people “who are in really tough spots.”

“One of the things that I’m most proud of throughout COVID is this enhanced coordination between public health, the housing department and One22,” Norton told the News&Guide.

While Commissioner Mark Barron praised the donors who made the grant possible, Commissioner Luther Propst praised the housing department and Community Foundation.

“I just wanted to commend you and your colleagues in the housing department for arranging for that,” Propst said Tuesday, “and encourage you to please convey our gratitude to Laurie Andrews and the staff at the Community Foundation, the board over there, for doing so.”

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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