With nearly 500 youngsters vaccinated at Teton County’s first two clinics last Thursday and Saturday, parents are eager and hopeful for more restful days ahead.

The kid-sized Pfizer jab will help protect children from the coronavirus and reduce the need to quarantine.

That’s good news for parents of young children who were forced to give up work this fall, or else find last minute child care, to manage quarantines for COVID-19 exposures. While school nurses tracked the virus closely and only quarantined students they found to be at risk, those requirements were still frustrating for families who had to upend their lives.

Current public school quarantine requirements only apply to unvaccinated students, unless someone is symptomatic. Students are also exempt from quarantines if they can provide a positive antibody test or a COVID diagnosis within the previous 90 days.

Some parents are grateful for those last two inclusions, which they say validate natural immunity.

Another parent gripe is the masking requirement, and that one won’t be as easily solved by vaccines.

The problem is twofold.

First, vaccines don’t entirely prevent the spread of viruses, so while coronavirus transmission remains high throughout the county, masking is still the safest option, according to public health officials.

Second, there’s a town and countywide public health order making that precaution a requirement though the end of the year.

What happens after Dec. 31 is still a bit of an open question. The school board voted Wednesday to nix its own mask mandate, effective Jan. 1, meaning it will only require students and staff to wear masks as long as town and county governments say the schools must.

Public Health Order No. 21-5 is set to expire at the end of 2021. If the Teton District Health Officer determines the pandemic is still a salient concern at that point, the health officer could propose a new order for elected officials to ratify. Any new order could exempt schools from the masking requirement, finally freeing students to fully emote in the classroom.

Or, if electeds decide it’s time to ditch the safety measures and return to pre-pandemic norms, they could shoot down any proposed public health order.

It’s worth noting that the current countywide masking requirement was designed to lift if the county saw a decreased risk of COVID-19 transmission. That hasn’t happened since the delta variant took hold; the county has been at high risk for more than 80 days straight.

Some residents and elected officials have suggested the risk isn’t actually that severe, arguing the CDC metric for risk isn’t a good measure for Jackson.

In order to drop to yellow risk level, the county would need less than 12 weekly cases. Over the past month, there have been 50 to 60 weekly cases.

Teton County Health Department used to use a different set of metrics that were more holistic and complex, but it adopted the national standard to provide clarity.

Other trackers, such as Covid Act Now, use a combination of factors to determine risk level. Covid Act Now developed its risk framework in partnership with the Harvard Global Health Institute and Harvard Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Covid Act Now grades three factors — daily new cases (per 100,000), infection rate and positive test rate — on a five-color scale to determine a location’s overall risk level. The one exception is that if a location’s daily new cases is green, then its overall risk level is green.

Trackers like Covid Act Now place Wyoming (and the entire Mountain West) in the “high” risk category.

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

Not sure the risk/reward is worth it for the kids Covid vax. Masks don't seem worth the psychological impact. End the mandates.

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