Cindy Riegel Teton County Commission Chair

Cindy Riegel

Teton County Commission Chair

After hiking up Darby Canyon to the Wind Caves on Saturday, I took my kids to the Victor Emporium for a milkshake. I ordered shakes at a newly cut window on the north side of the building and picked them up from a table that was sectioned off to accommodate single household pick-up. What a fantastic Covid-19 adaptation!

I consider Teton County residents and business owners to be some of the most creative, scrappy, entrepreneurial, do-it-yourselfers out there. Something about this place attracts people with that “can do” attitude. The Covid-19 adaptations that many businesses in our community have made to protect their employees and their patrons is impressive. From the Easter church service at the Spud Drive-In to the outdoor seating at Grand Teton Brewery, we are adapting to a new normal in our little community.

This adaptation is not without resistance. Some don’t believe the science behind mask wearing, don’t want to appear afraid of the virus, or don’t want to live their lives any differently. I get it. However, local and regional medical professionals have been pleading with us to wear face coverings in public for weeks. The pleadings were getting us about 40% compliance, which is simply not enough. That’s why Victor and Driggs passed local mask mandates and Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH) followed suit with a Public Health Order that applies to all of Teton County.

The Order requires face coverings in public spaces when social distancing is not easily attainable. It also restricts gatherings over 150 people. The EIPH Order is intended to help slow the spread of Covid-19, prevent our health care facilities from being overwhelmed, and keep vulnerable community members and our local economy alive.

From the beginning of this pandemic, the cities and county have worked hard to coordinate and implement a unified response. However, with four jurisdictions and multiple elected officials, it has not been easy. When the Stay Home Order came down from the Governor's office along with a staged reopening plan, we were all relieved.

After quickly proceeding to Stage 4 of reopening Idaho, the Governor decided to step out of the hot seat and return the responsibility to regional health districts and local jurisdictions. So once again, we carry the heavy burden of balancing the health of our economy with the health of our community. It is the single biggest challenge I have faced in my five plus years as a County Commissioner.

Fortunately, EIPH has filled the gap by creating a Covid-19 Regional Response Plan, and I want to publicly thank them for their efforts. It was the metrics identified in that plan that instigated the Public Health Order for Teton County. This past Monday, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution to show our support of the EIPH Order. I hope our community will resolve to do the same.