Vaccine bus

Jhala French packs up the Teton County Health Department’s vaccine bus after a stop at Jackson Hole Airport in June.

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Teton County has jumped to the yellow, or low, risk level once again, most likely because some workplace clusters have increased COVID-19 caseloads.

The Teton County Health Department’s risk level scale includes a variety of factors that influence the pandemic hazard. High overall vaccination rates and low numbers of cases have kept the county in the green (new normal) zone, but recent spikes have elevated the risk.

“It was work and congregate living,” county Director of Health Jodie Pond said of the underlying reasons for the clusters. “All of those people, I believe, with the exception of one person who had gotten their first dose recently, were not vaccinated.”

Pond declined to say which companies were implicated in the spikes, but she did confirm that the same industries that saw outbreaks last summer — particularly those that employ seasonal workers — were again experiencing COVID-19 cases.

The clusters weren’t the only concerning factor involved in the shift, which would have happened even if they hadn’t broken out. Community spread — the percentage of cases with no known origin — has increased as well, she said.

The county averaged 3.4 new cases per day for the past seven days as of Tuesday, the Health Department said in a news release. There have been 28 new cases in the past two weeks, 23 in individuals who were not fully vaccinated.

Teton County’s seven-day average of daily new cases as of Thursday was 15.8 per 100,000 people. The Harvard Global Health Institute, which has tracked case rates and risk at the county level since the beginning of the pandemic, puts the county at a moderate risk level.

Holidays earlier in the pandemic became drivers of case increases, but because most of the recent infections were from the workplace or congregate living clusters, Pond didn’t attribute the jump to Fourth of July celebrations.

“I don’t think it was any large gatherings or anything over Fourth of July or connections to those,” she said.

If new workplace clusters don’t arise, the county could conceivably move into the green level again in the coming weeks, but that’s dependent on a lack of spread. If caseloads remain at the level they’re at now, along with the heightened community spread, Pond said, the county will remain at the yellow level.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

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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