COVID-19 artwork

Teton County issued a notice on March 21 in conjunction with Teton Valley Health encouraging the Teton Valley community to self isolate.

“Due to the long period of time from disease exposure to when symptoms appear, the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to reduce contact among individuals, whether they are currently experiencing symptoms or not,” said Dr. Erin Prissel, Chief of Staff at Teton Valley Health and Dr. Nathan Levanger, Chief Medical Officer at Teton Valley Health in a joint comment. “This is especially important given that individuals who have no symptoms will spread the disease. Therefore, we have asked that the cities and county tell residents to self-isolate at their place of residence.”

The notice encourages self isolation until April 5.

The notice, said Teton County Commission Chair Cindy Riegel on Saturday evening, was a reiteration of what the Teton Valley community was already actively doing to stem the tide of contact with the virus since the first positive COVID-19 test in Teton County was announced on March 14. Since then, a second confirmed case was announced on March 20. Each case has been determined as an isolated case and not caused from community spread, or an unknown source.

Blaine County recently came under a state mandated self isolation order requiring the community in Sun Valley to, “stay and work from home as much as possible while ensuring all essential services and business remain available.”

Blaine County is currently experiencing community spread with 36 cases as of press time Monday, the highest in the state of Idaho. Riegel said East Idaho Public Health, the regional public health authority, was not willing to issue such an order for Teton County at this time.

“Our [notice] is a recommendation,” said Riegel. “With the isolation order in place in Blaine County, the local leadership here, as well as the hospital, believe that we are similar communities and we too will likely see community spread. We’re being proactive in this pandemic and hopefully we are saving more lives. I personally believe we can reduce numbers.”

The Teton County notice is just that, a notice, encouraging the community to stay the course and practice self isolation. Currently Teton County and the surrounding the cities have limited food service and the Teton School District 401 has closed the public schools for the next two weeks. Local churches are closed to Sunday service.

On Saturday evening, Eastern Idaho Public Health officials said they support the decisions of city and county officials to do what they think is best for the health of the community they are elected to serve.

“Our decisions are based on the data available to us at the time. If additional data become available and the situation changes, we are willing to reassess the situation,” said Geri Rackow, Eastern Idaho Public Health Director in an email to the Teton Valley News.

Decision makers met on Saturday evening to draft the public notice. The meeting was unnoticed to the public because there was not a quorum assembled at the meeting and the press was uninvited to attend. Those who were at the meeting include Driggs Mayor Hyrum Johnson, Victor Mayor Will Frohlich, Tetonia Mayor Gloria Hoopes, city managers Olivia Goodale and Jacque Beard, hospital CEO Keith Gnagey and Commissioner Riegel.

“The whole country is telling us to do this,” said Frohlich Saturday evening. “We have to take the right measures to flatten the curve. Either do this now, or not do it at all. This is what the medical professionals are telling us. With limited resources, we took a step and we hope it will flatten.”

Local governments pass emergency ordinances that limit food service, crowds

Prior to the isolation notice, Teton County along with the cities of Driggs, Victor and Tetonia worked to draft and adopt an emergency declaration, Wednesday, March 18 in response to the pandemic.

The three mayors and Commissioner Riegel signed the declaration on March 18 to enable any additional funding from the state and or federal government as well as enact the county’s emergency response plan.

In addition to the declaration, the county and city councils will consider an emergency ordinance that would close, “theaters, bars, coffee shops, except for drive-through, or take-out service, self-serve or staff-served buffets or salad bars, unpackaged self-serve food services, all communal pools, hot tubs, locker rooms, saunas, steam rooms, fitness centers, gyms, conference rooms, and spas and museums.”

Jackson passed a similar ordinance, based on one passed by Park City, Utah.

Riegel stressed in an interview with the Teton Valley News that this ordinance did not close businesses in Teton Valley, but gave guidance to local businesses to help limit human contact in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said this ordinance was really aimed toward food-service businesses to prohibit in-dining patronage and require to-go orders and touch-less service.

Many restaurants and businesses in Teton Valley had already closed as of Wednesday, while others moved to touchless service by offering pay-over-the-phone business and curbside pick up.

The Tetonia City Council held an emergency meeting on March 18 at 7 p.m. to discuss the COVID-19 response. At the meeting the council decided that Tetonia’s businesses are already voluntarily following recommendations by Governor Brad Little or are staying open for essential services, so the council did not see a need to create on ordinance, but agreed to monitor conditions daily and reevaluate as needed.

The City of Victor met on Thursday morning and voted unanimously to adopt the emergency ordinance through April 30, or until modified or repealed. The City of Driggs approved an emergency declaration resolution with similar guidelines, including enforced closures and the prohibition of dine-in food service and gatherings of ten or more people.

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