23 new COVID-19 cases detected in region
Norton Sound Health Corporation announced 23 new COVID-19 cases this week, 17 of which have been in the village of Stebbins. This unprecedentedly large spike in regional cases brings the Stebbins total to 61 cases and the regional total to 169.
In Stebbins, which is still undergoing the largest COVID-19 outbreak yet seen in the region, two new cases were announced on Wednesday, October 28. Three more were announced on October 29, four on October 30, one on October 31, and one on November 3. All of those cases were close contacts of other known cases, many of whom tested positive on their second test, taken seven days after going into quarantine. Then on Tuesday, November 3, six additional cases were announced in connection with the Stebbins outbreak. The six newest cases are all connected to one another, and five of them are currently isolating in Stebbins. The sixth tested positive after leaving the village.
Aside from the Stebbins cases, two regional residents tested positive while traveling outside the region, one on October 29 and one on November 2. The cases were unrelated, and neither patient had been in the region during their infectious periods.
Another two new cases were nonresidents of the region, who tested positive when complying with the City of Nome’s mandatory testing for incoming travelers. The patients are unrelated, with one testing positive on October 27 and the other on November 2. Both patients are isolating in Nome.
On October 30, a resident of Unalakleet tested positive and on October 31 a resident of Savoonga did as well. Both patients were in their villages when they tested positive, and immediately went into isolation.
Norton Sound Health Corporation has instituted the rapid testing of all close contacts in both villages, and so far they have detected no further positive cases. In a regular conference call, NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson said both cases were fairly contained and they did not expect a major outbreak in either village.
Meanwhile in Stebbins, the strict lockdown continues as case numbers continue to climb. Residents are being advised to stay away from other households for at least the next three weeks.
Statewide, the rate of new daily cases continues to rise to never-before-seen levels. The state has consistently seen 300 or more new cases every day for the last week, and the number of Alaskans in the hospital with COVID-19 has surged to 80 after hovering around 30 or 40 for a long time, according to Dr. Peterson. He added that the number of deaths was also likely to rise following the rise in hospitalizations.
He stressed the importance of continuing diligent mask wearing and social distancing, and urged regional residents not to travel for the upcoming holiday season. The vast majority of regional cases can be tied to travelers coming in from Anchorage, and he said limiting travel is critical to keeping regional case numbers low.
As of Tuesday, Alaska had seen 17,448 COVID-19 cases, 10,251 of which were active. Hospitals around the state had seen 457 total COVID-19 patients, and 84 people died.
The Bering Strait/Norton Sound region has seen 169 total cases, with 28 active cases. No regional patients have been put on ventilators, and none have died.
Funding for this coverage provided in part by a grant from the Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism.