JACKSON (WNE) — The Teton County Health Department has shifted attention to monkeypox as containing COVID-19 becomes less of a priority.
“It’s not that we don’t want to stop the containment of [COVID], but what we really want to stop are the hospitalizations and deaths, and we’re seeing that,” said Rachael Wheeler, COVID response coordinator.
“We’re not expecting monkeypox to be the next COVID,” she added.
The department has already expanded its COVID hotline to offer information about monkeypox vaccines, which it will start offering this week. The shift comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, under White House direction, starts rolling out additional monkeypox vaccinations.
The Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency in early August, weeks after the World Health Organization labeled it a global health emergency.
On Thursday, the CDC eased its guidelines for COVID, eliminating the recommendation for people to quarantine at home following exposure. Routine surveillance testing is also no longer recommended.
The announcement comes as omicron’s BA.5 variant continues to drive reinfections across the U.S. Wheeler said there has been a slight uptick in Teton County hospitalizations as a result of that variant, but availability of antiviral medication has helped prevent severe illness for visitors and residents. There has not been a COVID-related death locally since the omicron surge in February.
Teton County reported 70 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, slightly down from 74 the week before. However, community surveillance has become less reliable as more people take at-home tests or choose not to test at all.
Wyoming is the only state that has not yet confirmed a monkeypox case.