All Teton County residents, workers and visitors are once again required to wear face coverings in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
As outlined in Public Health Order No. 21-5, masks must be worn in most public buildings where 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. Also, at restaurants and bars, patrons must be masked until they take their seats, and all businesses must post signage that says face coverings are required.
“Wearing a face mask is one of the many preventative public health measures, along with staying home when sick and the COVID-19 vaccines, to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 in the community and keep our health care system from becoming overwhelmed,” Teton District Health Officer Travis Riddell said in a statement.
Health officials are once again stepping into “crisis management” mode as COVID-19 surges in Teton County, where 262 new cases were recorded from the past two weeks.
Riddell, Director of Health Jodie Pond and St. John’s Health COVID-19 Response Director Paul Beaupre have scheduled a community update for Sept. 1 to provide clear public health messaging and advisories that will, they hope, help Jackson Hole residents combat the virus.
Riddell and Wyoming Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist approved the mask mandate Thursday afternoon following 48 hours of public comment. The comments sent to Riddell and Harrist were also sent to the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners.
Those elected bodies will vote next week on whether to extend the health order beyond Sept. 4. The council is planning to decide at its Monday meeting, while the commissioners opted to schedule a special session.
Under Wyoming statute, county health officers can require a mask mandate for only 10 days; longer mandates must be ratified by elected officials.
More than 600 public comments flooded in following the Tuesday announcement that a mandate could go into effect. Preliminary results showed roughly 350 in favor, 248 opposed.
Riddell said the mandate is a response to the county’s surge in COVID-19 breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals and a spike in hospitalizations. Per the health order, “a significant number of Wyoming citizens are at risk of serious health complications, including death, from COVID-19.”
In early August, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon declined to issue a statewide mask mandate. His directive discouraging vaccine mandates from local governments and private businesses remains in effect.
Like prior mask mandates, Public Health Order No. 21-5 will be difficult to enforce due to language that protects those who choose not to wear masks due to a medical exemption.
Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr doesn’t anticipate issuing citations due to that clause.
“As sheriff, I certainly support Dr. Riddell and the local health department; it just creates legal challenges for us,” Carr said.