Novel coronavirus black and white slide image

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona), appearance when viewed under an electron microscope, shown. 

The new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has been detected in Teton County, and health officials are repeating their plea for people to only gather with household members.

"Our community is in perhaps the most critical position we have faced yet in the course of this pandemic,” Teton District Health Officer Travis Riddell said in a press release Saturday. "With the identification of the COVID-19 variant along with cases of COVID-19 rapidly rising in our community, we are asking all residents to follow Recommendation No. 11 and gather with members of your household only."

Teton County has seen 413 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, and there are currently 273 active cases in Jackson Hole. 

"Like many other viruses, mutations to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are expected over time," the Teton County Health Department said in a press release. "This COVID-19 variant contains multiple mutations including several within the spike protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and has received more attention due to increased spread of COVID-19 in areas where it has been detected."

The variant is thought to be more contagious than earlier strains of COVID-19, but is not thought to be more deadly. The vaccines in distribution are expected to combat it.

"It would have to mutate a whole bunch more for the current vaccines not to be effective," Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said Saturday.

Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the variant will further stress healthcare systems as the virus surges across the country and require greater adherence to safety protocols, according to Reuters. The agency also warned the mutated virus could become the dominant American coronavirus variant by March. 

In addition to limiting gatherings, the Health Department urged people to continue practicing basic preventative measures against COVID-19: wearing a dry, double-layer fabric mask over your mouth and nose, maintaining six feet of distance from people who aren't in your household, regularly washing your hands with soap and water, and staying home when sick.

The press release also said people who are over 65 years old or who have other health conditions "should consider staying home except for essential activities."

This is a developing story. Pick up a copy of a future Jackson Hole Daily for more.

Local coronavirus news coverage is also provided free as a community service online at jhnewsandguide.com/news/health/coronavirus and with selected articles in Spanish at jhnewsandguide.com/news/health/coronavirus/spanish.

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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