By Tom Ninneman, Cowboy State Daily
Rapid increases in the number of coronavirus cases detected in Teton County have prompted the county to seek help for its contact tracing efforts.
Dr. Travis Riddell, the county’s public health officer, announced Friday that the county is using contracted assistance obtained through the Wyoming Department of Health to help with contact tracing efforts.
The assistance was made necessary because COVID exposures are not easing in Teton County.
Between Jan. 5 and 18, the county detected over 540 new coronavirus cases. This is the largest case increase seen in a two-week period so far during the pandemic.
Compounding the pressure is the fact that Teton County is the first in the state to diagnose cases of the more contagious variant of COVID-19. With the pressure on the department’s contact tracing staff, Riddell said anyone identified as being infected with the coronavirus should just assume they have the more contagious strain.
“This variant case seems to have been acquired locally, so we can conclude that there are other cases in the community due to this variant,” he said during an update Friday. “But due to our really limited capacity to sequence, we really have no way of knowing unfortunately how widespread this variant is compared to other strains. Preliminary data from the UK suggests if 50% to 75% more transmissible.”
The county last week adopted a new risk level in the face of the case growth.
The new risk level is purple or “critical risk,” and is higher than the previous top level of red or “high risk.”
When evaluating risk levels for COVID-19, key considerations include the number of new cases, case investigation/contact tracing capacity, recent hospitalizations, and other epidemiological factors.
The purple risk designation indicates that more community commitment to preventative measures is needed to address COVID-19 transmission, the Health Department said.
The Teton County Health Department is urging everyone to avoid close contact and gatherings with people who do not live in their household.