Weekly News Roundup: Friday, Nov. 5

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on Wyoming's special legislative session, a new local play and health care open enrollment.
About 20 Jackson Hole locals protested COVID-19 public health measures at the Jackson Town Square Wednesday. (Alicia Unger/KHOL)

by | Nov 5, 2021 | COVID-19, Politics & Policy

Health Care Open Enrollment Season Underway

Monday marked the beginning of open enrollment season for health insurance coverage plans offered through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. That means now through Jan. 15, 2022, is the time to purchase, update or renew health care plans for next year. And according to Rob Woodsen, an independent provider based in Wilson, changes made to the federal health care system earlier this year may make it easier for Wyoming residents to save money on their insurance. For instance, costs are now capped based on income for individuals making less than a certain percentage of the federal poverty level, around $51,000 per year for a single individual or $87,000 for a family of three.

“They’ll pay no more than 8.5% of their income for a benchmark 2022 plan,” Woodsen said. “This is huge and welcome news for Wyoming residents that purchase their own insurance.” 


Woodsen also said Wyoming historically has some of the highest insurance premiums in the nation. Open enrollment allows folks to survey their options, and that could be particularly helpful in Teton County, where many people don’t qualify for coverage through their employers. 

“If they’re a legal resident, all of these people will benefit,” Woodsen said. “This includes gig economy workers. You might work at a restaurant, you don’t have benefits, for instance, or 1099 employees, self-employed people, unemployed people.” 

More information about open enrollment is available at healthcare.gov or local agencies like the Teton County Department of Health. Idaho residents can visit yourhealthidaho.org

Driggs Animal Shelter Seeks Fosters

If you’ve been thinking about adding a pet to your home, look no further than the Teton Valley Community Animal Shelter. Capacity at the Driggs shelter is getting high and fosters are needed for both cats and dogs. Michael West manages the shelter, and he said one factor, more than any other, is driving the current uptick in animal surrenders.

“In our particular case, like in Jackson for years, we’re seeing that it’s more related to people losing their homes and having transitional home issues,” West said.

West added that the shelter took in about six animals just in the last couple of weeks all due to human owners losing their housing. There’s now a variety of older cats and dogs, as well as kittens, who could use temporary homes, and West has a message for interested foster parents.

“Foster failure is just fine!” he said with a laugh. “A lot of people don’t want to foster because they’re so afraid they can’t give them up. And yeah, the first one or two is probably a little difficult, I won’t argue that, but finding the right home for them [and] participating in the rehoming is a very rewarding process.”

The shelter covers all medical bills while animals are being fostered but temporary caretakers are asked to purchase their own pet food, if possible. Applications and photos of available pets are available on the shelter’s website.

One Bill Survives Special Wyoming State Legislative Session

Another major anti-vaccine mandate bill failed to pass the Wyoming State Senate Wednesday. The measure was shot down narrowly after hours of debate from lawmakers. As written, the bill would have prohibited businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19, allowed parents of public school children to opt their kids out of mask or inoculation requirements, and allocated $10 million dollars of public funds towards challenging federal mandates in court, among other measures. Democratic State Sen. Chris Rothfuss of Laramie said he opposed the bill because he felt like it ignored those who want to feel safe at their jobs, schools and in public spaces. 

“This is not electing for individual rights, this is choosing winners on who gets their rights respected,” Rothfuss said, “on who gets to have their constitutional rights validated and upheld while casting aside those who feel differently.”

Other lawmakers criticized the bill as anti-business because it would have put employers in a bind where they’re either breaking state or federal law. Now, just one COVID-19 related bill remains in the state’s special lawmaking session that was intended to fight the Biden administration’s proposed vaccine mandates. The bill appears to be headed to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for signing, according to the Casper Star-Tribune, but is more of a declaration opposing the federal orders than some Republican lawmakers had hoped. As of press time, the bill allocates $4 million to support Gov. Gordon’s planned legal fights.

Jackson Protest Takes Aim at Mask and Vaccine Mandates

A small group of local residents protested what they described as “forced mandates” related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Jackson Town Square Wednesday. The demonstrators held up signs questioning the authority and expertise of local public health officials and asking the Teton County School District to reconsider its mask orders.

One person who participated, Elisa San Souci, said she lost her job when her employer decided to implement a policy requiring vaccines among his workforce. 

“So, I did just leave. I didn’t push anything,” San Souci said. “And I understand he’s doing what he feels is best for his business but it’s just really unfortunate.” 

San Souci added that there are plenty of other jobs in the valley for her to find but said she worries about others who aren’t able to risk unemployment. The Teton County Board of Commissioners will hear a COVID-19 update and debate local orders in a few weeks, but in the meantime, local health officials continue to reiterate the importance of face coverings and vaccines in order to keep COVID-19 case numbers and deaths down. 

“The Thanksgiving Play” Opens Friday

“The Thanksgiving Play,” a drama exploring the meaning of Thanksgiving, opens at the Center for the Arts in Jackson on Friday, Nov. 5. The play is a satire, critiquing uber-wokeness and the erasure of Native American voices from storytelling, according to director Edgar Landa. 

“I think there’s something about humor and comedy that allows things to impact in a different way, that maybe we can receive it in a different way,” Landa said. “I hope the audience walks away thinking about, ‘What does Thanksgiving mean? Why do I keep doing the same thing over and over? Is that useful, or can I at least begin to have a different way of thinking about it?’”

The play opens Friday at 7 p.m. and is put on by Off Square Theatre Company. Sunday’s performance will also be accompanied by a talk and movie screening about the legacy of federal Indian boarding schools and their connection to Wyoming in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

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