Welcome back to all the staff and students at public schools in Teton County. Winter sports (basketball and wrestling for boys and girls) both started last week and look different than they have in the past because of changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kudos to our student athletes for the hard work they are putting in during practice and the special efforts they and their coaching and support staff are taking to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19.

Just as the student athletes in fall sports did, these teenagers and junior high students are wearing masks while not on the floor, are trying to minimize their exposure risks and are working hard to have the best season possible. We can support their efforts by wearing facial masks, socially distancing and avoiding crowded indoor venues where there is poor air circulation.

Thank you to all our public schools for all their gargantuan efforts this school year to keep kids in the classrooms and to allow students to participate in extracurricular and co-curricular activities.

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There is also heartening news from the Teton County Health Department: Many of the county residents now eligible to receive the first round of COVID-19 vaccine doses have signed up to receive the first of the two-part inoculation manufactured by Moderna. TCHD Director Melissa Moyer on Monday said that Benefis Teton Medical Center is administering doses to 60 staff and long-term care residents while she has more than 80 people who are healthcare providers who have direct patient contact or first responders, including law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services and fire, signed up to get their first shots on Jan. 8.

While there are some who are not convinced of the FDA emergency-approved Moderna vaccine, it is encouraging to hear that many long-term care residents, medical staff and first responders here are signing up for the vaccine. Getting the most vulnerable people in our community protected is vital and is the first step to reining in this viral illness and getting back to some semblance of normalcy in the first half of 2021.

The TCHD will be rolling out vaccination clinics for more eligible people in a three-part phase in that started in December and is expected to run into the summer. Watch for information from the Health Department on more clinics as the levels of the state’s vaccination plan phases are followed.

Thank you to all the those who are working so hard to make sure vaccinations are available here, especially to Moyer and her crew at the TCHD.

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Kudos also this week to Teton Pass Ski Area operator Charles Hlavac and his crew for getting the ski area west of Choteau up and running this season. There are no lines at Teton Pass, lift tickets are affordable and to-go food is now available from the Lodge. If you’re an avid skier, don’t miss out on this local treasure. If you’re a newcomer to skiing or snowboarding, Teton Pass offers you a great opportunity to gain more confidence and have a wonderful time with family and friends. Ski local!