Weekly News Roundup: Friday, April 8

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on COVID-19 booster shots, a wind storm that damaged the Spud and Wyoming’s place in the future of American energy.
The 70-year-old Spud Drive-In Theatre was taken down after a gusty evening earlier this week. (Kyle Mackie/KHOL)

by | Apr 8, 2022 | Weekly News Roundups

Second Booster Shots Available for Some Residents

A second booster shot of two COVID-19 vaccines is now available for older and immunocompromised individuals in Jackson Hole. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the additional doses from both Pfizer and Moderna last week, and Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said she’s hoping to get the word out to community members who are most vulnerable to serious cases from the evolving Omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

“Some of the data [is] showing that your third booster is starting to wane, the effectiveness,” Pond said. “And the people that are most at risk for hospitalization and potentially death would be the people over 65 and people 50 and over that have underlying health conditions.”

Pond added that she’s seeing high demand for booster appointments at health department clinics, but the pharmacies at Smith’s and Albertsons are also offering shots should those spots fill up. As far as cases go, Pond said Jackson’s rates remain low, mirroring the rest of the country, however, folks should be wary of a potential surge as area residents return from spring break.

“We would encourage people to test when they get back, just to make sure they didn’t bring something home with them,” Pond said. “And then, you know, do isolation if they are positive. We still have lots of availability for testing and rapid testing at the Target plaza and also at the library.”

More information on local COVID-19 resources is available on the health department website.

Spud Drive-In Damaged by Wind Storm

The iconic movie screen at the Spud Drive-in Theatre in Teton Valley was toppled by a wind storm Monday night.

Manager Jedd Mumm was trying to salvage the Spud’s larger-than-life Idaho license plate-style sign when KHOL stopped by the wreckage on a still-windy Tuesday afternoon. He emerged from a heap of broken wood and metal that had held up the drive-in’s movie screen since it was built in 1953.

“It’s been a good screen for 70 years, and it finally got taken out by one of these massive windstorms,” Mumm said. “I came out at 11 [p.m.] and looked out and saw a car drive all the way past the screen, and I was like, ‘No way.’ And then the screen was gone–on its face, on the ground.

Read KHOL’s full story about the Spud here.

Contagious Strain of Avian Flu Spreads to Wyoming

A worrying strain of avian flu has reached Wyoming, according to the Associated Press. Poultry producers across the state have been warned to keep a close eye on their flocks after the virus was identified in Johnson and Park counties. The highly-pathogenic disease can infect both commercial and wild birds and can cause severe illness or sudden death.

Speaking during a webinar last month, Maggie Baldwin of the Colorado Department of Agriculture said there’s no current cure for the avian flu, which has spread to dozens of states across the U.S.

“So it’s a foreign animal disease. It impacts animal health and welfare. It also has a significant economic impact to our producers, to the communities and to the economy. There’s a lot of downstream effects,” Baldwin said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, thus far, that the outbreak is not a public health concern, as no cases have been detected in humans. However, the Wyoming livestock board is trying to mitigate the virus’ spread through quarantines and population control.

Ukraine War Catapults Wyoming to Forefront of Energy Conservation

The war in Ukraine and resulting sanctions on Russian fossil fuels have thrown Wyoming into the center of the conversation about the future of American energy and the clean energy transition needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. That was the major takeaway from a virtual meeting held by the Wyoming Outdoor Council Wednesday focused on how foreign policy can affect energy policy and Wyoming communities.

“We know we have to transition. We know that’s gonna take new resources and new technologies,” said John Burrows, a conservation advocate for the council. “And places like Wyoming are where folks are gonna be looking to get those raw materials.” 

Burrows said the energy transition is a tough challenge for the environmental community because even lower-carbon options like electric vehicles and nuclear energy still require inputs like rare earth minerals, lithium, cobalt and uranium–all of which have to be mined and processed. John Rader is another conservation advocate who spoke Wednesday.

“With any kind of energy production, there are trade-offs,” Rader said. “And there are inputs that are required, and there are cleaner and dirtier ways of producing those inputs. So, it’s not as simple as, ‘Well, there’s increased demand and less supply from Russia, so we can shift to renewables without additional impacts.’”

There will be impacts, Rader said, and Wyoming is sitting on significant reserves of both rare earth minerals and uranium. The Wyoming Outdoor Council’s goal is to minimize and mitigate them across the Cowboy State as both Democrats and Republicans are calling for increased domestic energy production.

Gov. Gordon Announces Reelection Campaign

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced Monday that he plans on running for reelection, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. The moderate Republican has had a tumultuous tenure thus far, grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and historic revenue shortfalls. He’s also faced criticisms from the far right wing of the GOP since he emerged victorious from a competitive primary in 2018. Thus far, no major candidates have announced any challenges against Gordon. The Johnson County native has lived in the cowboy state for most of his life, and was Wyoming’s treasurer prior to taking executive office in Cheyenne. 

New Sites to See on Yellowstone Road Trip

A new map from the Wyoming State Geological survey aims to highlight the roadside attractions the Cowboy State has to offer while on a road trip to Yellowstone. 52 sites, including well-known spots like Devil’s Tower and Colter Bay, are plotted onto an app and web platform. And they’re divided onto four common routes travelers take through Wyoming on the way to the world’s first national park. Christina George is outreach and publications manager for the Geological Survey, and she said there are also many hidden gems folks can learn about as they explore Wyoming, like the Rawlins Paint Mines or Dubois badlands. 

“This web map isn’t just for tourists and visitors to Wyoming. Residents can find it useful as well,” ,” George said. “Having lived here nearly my entire life and assuming I had seen a lot when building this map and determining the sites, I realize there’s still a lot to see. And the map has definitely given me some ideas on new places to check out.” 

The map was created to celebrate Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary, and to get tourists out to other, lesser-known geologic parts of the Cowboy State. It’s available at wsgs.wyo.gov

Teton Valley to Receive Community Grant

The City of Driggs was awarded an $85,000 grant Monday to improve outdoor community spaces in Teton Valley. Driggs was one of three cities picked out of 78 by the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. And Senior Program Officer at the organization Courney Frost said she looks forward to learning what Eastern Idaho residents want out of their public places, and how this money can help

“Outdoor community space is really a key part of community health in general,” she said. “And having access to sidewalks, parks, playgrounds, access to these activity spaces not only helps physical and mental and emotional health, but it does bring folks together.” 

What exactly will come out of this grant is still up in the air, and Driggs officials will be engaging with community members to create a plan in the coming months. The Blue Cross Foundation will also be providing technical assistance to the city through this process, and throwing a local event to celebrate the project.

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