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A shopper peeks inside J.D. High Country Outfitters on July 20, which was requiring customers to wear masks and limiting the number of people inside the store at any one time.

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It’s too early to call it a win, but a few key metrics regarding the novel coronavirus are trending in the right direction.

For much of the past month the positivity rate and number of new daily cases had been increasing. In the past week, however, health officials are starting to see a dip, particularly in new cases. The rate of new daily cases per 100,000 residents was above 50 last week but dropped in the past few days to 45.7.

That’s still in the “red zone,” according to the Harvard Global Health Initiative, but progress is progress.

“Any direction down is better, in my opinion,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said. “The question that’s, you know, literally the million dollar question, is can we continue to decrease that number?”

The Harvard initiative calculates the new daily case rate from the past seven days, so some trends seen in data from the Teton County dashboard could help lower it even more, if they continue. Just a week ago the county was seeing record numbers of new cases per day, with 20 new cases reported July 23.

August is a small sample size, but as of Tuesday, no day with data reported on the dashboard had more than six new cases. If that trend continues it would lower the county’s rate of new daily infections and, over time, reduce the number of active cases.

“This is what I want to see. I want to see under 10 every day,” Pond said of new cases.

Some in the community have grumbled that the new daily case rate is skewed because Teton County has an effective population much higher than its U.S. Census designated number, which was estimated in 2019 to be 23,464. Effective population incorporates visitors, summer residents and seasonal workers.

The Teton County Planning Department’s 2020 Indicator Report put the 2018 summer effective population at just over 68,000. If that number were to be used, the new daily case rate would be at a much more manageable place, but Pond doesn’t see it as applicable.

It’s true, she said, that more people are in Teton County than the Census says, but commuters are counted in their county’s population if they contract COVID-19. Visitors often are counted in their home area because even if they contract the disease here, they are tested and isolate at home.

Pond and her staff use the Census number because they need to use a set count. One place for improvement in the population count would be seasonal workers, and she said she would be willing to include them if she could obtain an accurate number.

No matter the denominator, she hopes the recent trend foretells lasting improvement.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but we need to move a lot further,” she said.

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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