COVID-19: 43 new cases in region, 37 in Nome
This week saw the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March. The Bering Strait/Norton Sound region identified 43 new cases of COVID-19 this week, 37 were in Nome. There are currently 51 active cases throughout the region, 46 are in Nome. The region has seen 220 total cases since the start of the pandemic.
The first three new Nome cases this week were announced on Wednesday, November 18. One was a Nome resident who tested positive after traveling outside the region, one was a close contact of a previously known case, and the cause of the third case was the result of community spread, meaning that contact tracers could not locate the source of the infection.
Three more cases were announced in Nome later that day. Two were identified as community spread and one was travel related. Two of those cases, the travel-related case and one of the community spread cases, were Norton Sound Health Corporation employees.
The next day, on November 19, seven additional Nome cases were identified. Two were incoming travelers testing in accordance with the City of Nome’s travel mandate, two were close contacts of known positive cases, and three were identified as community spread.
On November 20, NSHC announced 13 additional cases in Nome. Twelve of those cases were close contacts of known positives, and one was the result of community spread.
Another five close contacts tested positive on Sunday, November 22. A sixth, travel-related patient also tested positive on the same day.
Seven more cases were then identified on Monday. Three were travel related and four were close contacts.
The majority of Nome cases were not travel related.
Norton Sound Health Corporation issued an alert on November 19 that people who have been to the Arctic Native Brotherhood Club between Nov. 7 and 14 maybe have been exposed to a person who had tested positive. NSHC advised to make an appointment to test at the NSHC Operations Building and to quarantine for 14 days.
This significant spike in new cases has caused widespread closures and shutdowns. Nome Public Schools have closed down all Nome district schools until the end of the semester.
In addition to the cases in Nome, one new case was announced in Golovin on Wednesday, November 18. The case was a close contact of a travel-related case that had been identified in the village about a week prior.
Two patients also tested positive in Shaktoolik on Friday, November 20, and the cases were deemed travel related. On the same day, another travel-related case was announced in St. Michael.
NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson said the Nome outbreak was largely under control and that there were no active village outbreaks as of the weekend. However, he did say that Nome should expect more positive cases in coming days as close contacts in quarantine may test positive.
Data released by NSHC on Monday show that only 38 percent of COVID-19 patients in the region have tested positive in their first test. The other 62 percent tested positive through the follow-up test taken four to 15 days after their first test. This illustrates the importance of maintaining quarantines, Dr. Peterson said, because patients can be infectious days before they notice symptoms and without knowing that they have the virus.
He added that the region can expect more travel-related cases as well as infection rates continue to rise throughout the state, especially in Anchorage.
Alaska has seen around 500 or 600 new cases every day for the last few weeks, and hospitals across the state have been struggling to keep up. As of Tuesday, there were 128 active COVID-19 related hospitalizations and 19 patients on ventilators, the highest numbers yet since the pandemic started.
There have been 28,863 recorded COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday in Alaska, 631 total hospitalizations and 116 deaths, including 13 reported deaths on Monday.
In the Norton Sound/Bering Strait region, there have been 220 total cases and three COVID patients in the hospital. No patient yet required to be put on a ventilator or needed to be medivaced to Anchorage. There have been no deaths.