Mandatory mask use returns to Grand Teton


CASPER — Grand Teton National Park announced Monday that it will again require masking in all buildings. 

Masks are required at all park buildings regardless of vaccination status, the park said. That includes visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops and restaurants in Grand Teton. It applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status. Masks are optional outdoors. 

The park also asked that people maintain 6 feet of distance from one another, wash hands and use hand sanitizer and avoid traveling if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with an infected person. 

The park ended its last mask mandate in early March. 

The new policy is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 community level, which rates Teton County’s community COVID level as high right now. The latest CDC report puts the current seven-day case rate in the county at 741.56 per 100,000. The seven-day average number of cases in the county was 23.7 as of Thursday, according to the Teton County Health Department. A month prior, the seven-day average number of cases was 5.6.

COVID patients are using about 1.6 percent of staffed inpatient beds in the county right now, according to the CDC. 

Teton County has a high COVID vaccine rate; about 93 percent of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. 

Teton County doesn’t separate COVID cases from out-of-county visitors and cases among county residents, although it used to. When the county was reporting those numbers, Teton County Health Department Director of Health Jodie Pond said the data showed most of the infections were driven by county residents. 

But that’s not necessarily an accurate representation of what actually goes on, she added; visitors might not report a positive test, or they might take a test that isn’t recorded by the health department. 

Pond said the county health department is considering reporting those numbers separately again given the sudden spike in cases. 

A Grand Teton National Park spokesperson said that some of the park’s employees are off duty because they have COVID but that the number of cases so far hasn’t significantly impacted staffing. 

COVID cases are rising rapidly throughout Wyoming. 

The Wyoming Department of Health reported 443 confirmed active cases last week, almost double the number of cases from the week before and up by 326 cases from a month prior. 

That, however, doesn’t seem to be connected yet with an equal rise in COVID deaths or hospitalizations. 

There was a jump from nine hospitalizations to 15 hospitalizations from late April to early May, but that dropped again to just four the following week. The numbers jumped again from six to 14 hospitalizations later in May. Numbers since then have wavered.

Overall, the number of reported deaths has stayed pretty consistent since mid-April when cases started to rise. 

The omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 is responsible for about 62 percent of current COVID cases across the nation right now, according to the latest update from the CDC. The subvariant accounts for about 54.5 percent of cases in the region that includes Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota and Utah. 

The park will add updates on park operations and masking requirements on its website as things change.

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