The valley has a “few days head start,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said this week. That means Jackson’s window is closing to take aggressive actions before a case of COVID-19 is confirmed here.
Today state officials approved such a measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday afternoon, Wyoming state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist signed a countywide public health mandate that shuts down nonessential services in Jackson and Teton County beginning Wednesday, March 18 at 5 p.m. The measure, in effect for 14 days, closes theaters, museums, tasting rooms, bars, coffee shops, employee cafeterias and self-serve buffets. Nightclubs, saloons and taverns are also on the list, along with golf and country clubs, fitness centers and gyms, communal pools, hot tubs and saunas.
Officials expect to renew the measure after the 14-day expiration date.
Under the order, which mirrors one recently passed in Park City, Utah, restaurants and cafes can remain open only for to-go orders, delivery, and curbside pick-up.
Teton County health officer Dr. Travis Riddell submitted the measure to the state after gauging the support of town and county officials on Monday. “This is the biggest decision of my professional career,” he told officials, acknowledging the economic consequences sure to ripple through the community.
Mayor Pete Muldoon, for his part, says he understands the weight of such a move. Before Riddell’s decision, he told KHOL: “I can’t imagine the pressure Dr. Riddell is under and the level of responsibility of having to unilaterally make a decision that, on the one hand, will negatively affect a lot of people and their means of making a living, but on the other hand is incredibly important to our public health.”
Jackson Town Council was prepared to pass its own emergency ordinance mandating closures of nonessential services if the state rejected or significantly altered Riddell’s measure. Councilors met Tuesday morning to do just that but went into recess until 3 p.m. to give state officials more time to approve an all-encompassing countywide measure.
When officials reconvened, they discussed the need to support vulnerable community members who will be disproportionately affected by the shutdown. “Sadly, in the wealthiest county in America, many people still live one paycheck from eviction and only have food money until the next paycheck. We must help them,” Muldoon said.
The mayor appealed to landlords, encouraging them to have mercy on struggling tenants. “It’s never a good time to be evicted, but now is a particularly bad time for that and three months rent might make the difference for a lot of people.” He urged residents to contribute to the Community Foundation’s emergency fund, which is supporting local nonprofits that are working with laid-off workers and low-income households. “It’s time to come together, not physically, but through generosity and good deeds, with kindness and concern for neighbors,” Muldoon said.
The state also approved on Tuesday a mandate by Riddell that bans gatherings of 50 people or more in Teton County.
The Wyoming Department of Health has confirmed 15 cases of COVID-19 in Fremont, Sheridan, Laramie and Park counties.