All public and private gatherings are now banned in Teton County, as local officials took another aggressive move to mandate social distancing that will slow the spread of COVID-19.
The measure, which Jackson Town Councilor Jim Stanford likened to a “stay-at-home” order, includes a list of exceptions. People can leave their homes for “essential activities” as long as they maintain six feet of distance from others.
For example, residents can still purchase groceries, travel to and from work if that work cannot be done remotely, go outside for physical exercise and leave their homes to provide care for other people or pets.
Under the mandate, people who leave the valley and new visitors must quarantine for 14 days when they return.
“I am pleased that we have been able to enact another incremental step to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Dr. Travis Riddell, Teton District health officer, said in a press release.
Riddell submitted an order to the Wyoming state public health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist on Monday. She amended and signed a similar order banning public and private gatherings Monday night. It was just two days after Riddell and Mayor Pete Muldoon urged state officials to quicken their pace when approving health measures for Teton County. Riddell told Jackson Town Council on Saturday that working with the state on recent directives had been an “excruciating” process.
Local officials are in a race to slow the spread of COVID-19 amid the valley’s tourism- and service-based economy where people from near and far are in close contact with each other. Even with the closures of dine-in restaurants and other “nonessential” services, this remains a key concern. Teton County has “different circumstances” and “different demographics” than other Wyoming counties, Muldoon said Saturday.
The local order, in effect until April 17, annuls a statewide mandate limiting gatherings to 10 people. It can be criminally enforced with a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment up to one year. But law enforcement has signaled an unwillingness to enforce similar measures.
And officials hope people will make wise choices on their own volition. “The individual decisions each of us make every day collectively remain our single most powerful tool in controlling the virus,” Riddell said in the press release.
The countywide mandate comes on the heels of a stay-at-home ordinance enacted by Jackson Town Council on Saturday. The council nullified that measure Tuesday in favor of the countywide order. Muldoon said all along he and the council hoped for an all-encompassing countywide public health order to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“A town ordinance is only in effect inside the city limits, and this virus doesn’t respect jurisdictional lines,” Muldoon told KHOL.
As of Tuesday, 20 patients in Teton County had tested positive for the new coronavirus and the state’s total had risen to 109 cases. With this news weighing heavy on officials, Muldoon urged people to remember their neighbors “as we make decisions in our day-to-day life.”