JACKSON — At first, submissions to the Teton County Health Department’s COVID-19 complaint form were helpful. On Sept. 1, for example, an anonymous tipster wrote that Cultivate Cafe didn’t have public signage announcing the county’s mask mandate, according to records obtained by the Jackson Hole Daily.
The next day, two more commenters wrote about a lack of mask compliance at Merry Piglets, Liberty Burger and Albertsons. On Sept. 5, someone expressed the same concern about Teton Gravity Research.
But that same day, someone wrote to the Health Department: “You are turning Teton City into a police state. Your ‘health officials’ have FAILED to implement early treatments or preventative protocols. You should be ASHAMED of yourselves creating a tattle-tail site like this for a virus that has a 99-percent survival rate.”
Because submissions to the online form could be entered anonymously, the identity of the complainer is not known, though public records show the comment was posted at 7:44 p.m., with the “name of establishment” as all of Teton County.
Similarly minded commenters used the form as a chance to air their broader grievances. One wrote: “This form symbolizes government perfectly.”
Another: “I feel like our mask rules are way too lenient. Why are we not triple masking?”
The majority of the replies were legitimate calls for businesses to improve their enforcement of Teton County Public Health Order #21-5, which states masks must be worn inside public buildings where 6 feet of separation cannot be maintained.
But after just one week, the online form was disabled amid what officials called a flood of false complaints.
At its Sept. 28 meeting, the Teton District Health Board described some of the submissions as “rude” and “disheartening.”
A few people were crass:
“Faces everywhere! I was scared for my life! Every smile was like a stab to my heart and poison to my soul,” a commenter wrote under the pseudonym: email@example.com.
“Is this like the abortion ban in Texas?” asked Bobby Thomson on Sept. 7. “Since when did enforcement go to citizens needing to snitch? Do we get $10,000 too?”
Others were pointedly harsh to the Health Department:
“You are FASCISTS and should be ashamed of yourselves for asking citizens to tattle on each other. Get your vaccine, wear your masks, stay in your basements and live in fear if that is your desire! But spreading division among the citizens of your own community? Disgusting and unforgivable!”
“You’re a bunch of disgusting c—— who can kindly go f— yourselves with a splintered bat!”
“Nazi Germany and Lenin’s Russia reborn in Teton County WY / Will there be gulags too? / Firing squads?”
“You people in Jackson Hole should be ashamed this is not New York or Germany”
At least one response was redacted from the records obtained by the Daily.
Residents didn’t stop making complaints when the online form was disabled. Instead, they took to old routines of calling law enforcement or the Health Department directly. If the department receives three calls about the same establishment, it contacts the location to share the concerns.
Although, as public health advisor Ashley Cassat notes, “typically the establishment still does not care.”
After six related calls, the department will forward the concern to law enforcement. Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr has previously said his approach centers on community education rather than issuing citations, a strategy forced in part by the language of the public health order.