The Teton County Board of County Commissioners has penned a letter to the Jackson Hole community, asking for "individual responsibility" in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner Greg Epstein requested the letter Monday not as a "mandate" but "as a recommendation that we all need to take care of one another."
The letter does not endorse the request Teton District Health Officer Travis Riddell submitted to state officials Friday. That request is for a variance to state health orders, which prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people. The variance would allow Teton County to prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.
Riddell's request will need approval from State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, who has granted other variances, though often following wrangling over their wording. Riddell did not give an expected timeline for a decision from Harrist.
Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery said Monday that Harrist had responded with a few changes, and was planning to talk the request over with the Wyoming Attorney General's Office that afternoon.
Riddell said Friday he was worried about the community’s ability to manage the growing pandemic.
“These cases have totally overwhelmed the capacity of our state and local health departments,” he said. “They’ve overwhelmed the capacity of our schools to safely teach our children.”
As of noon Tuesday, Teton County had 171 active coronavirus cases. The full text of the County Commission's letter to the community is copied below.
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November 17, 2020
Open Letter to the Teton County Community:
Teton County is facing a truly unprecedented time in history. The global coronavirus pandemic is impacting our families, our businesses, our way of life. It is unlike anything we have seen before in our community.
As COVID-19 spreads in Teton County, the one thing that has remained constant since the first case in our small mountain community, is that we are truly all in this together. COVID-19 does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at any time, any business at any time, any community at any time.
As the seasons change, shifting toward the winter flow of shorter days, cooler air, spending more time indoors as well as a seemingly endless playground of snow – the time of year that brings so many of us joy through winter sports – winter also brings with it an added challenge for our community to combat this infectious disease.
Now, it is more important than ever to acknowledge and embrace our individual responsibility to combat COVID-19. Ask yourself the tough questions. How do I keep my family safe? How can I protect my friends and co-workers? How can we keep our businesses running so that they are functional, productive, and safe for employees, residents, and visitors.
The depths of individual responsibility may vary from person to person, business to business – but the mantra is the same: I will do my part.
Resist the urge to gather in large groups when you think it is unsafe. Wear a mask if you can. Wash your hands for twenty-seconds. Try to keep your physical distance from others but reach out when you need support.
COVID-19 is relentless. But so is Teton County. We are all in this together.
Teton County Board of County Commissioners
Natalia D. Macker