Eight more regional COVID-19 cases found
Eight more COVID-19 cases have appeared this week in the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region and in regional residents traveling elsewhere in the state. This brings the total number of regional cases to 50, with nine cases currently active.
Two cases were found on August 27, both regional residents traveling elsewhere in the state. Norton Sound Health Corporation said that neither patient had been in the region during their infectious period, and that the two cases were unrelated.
Three more cases were found late on August 28. Two were in Unalakleet and one of those is an NSHC employee. Public Health Nursing began contact tracing over the weekend, and close contacts began testing on Monday. The third case was in Nome and was another NSHC employee who tested positive during routine testing.
On August 30, NSHC announced two more village cases were found over the weekend. A press release said the patients were close contacts of each other, but did not reveal which village they were in.
On Monday, August 31 an additional case was detected in Stebbins. NSHC said the case was likely travel-related, and that Public Health Nursing was tracing close contacts. Stebbins currently has two active cases, but NSHC CEO Angie Gorn said on a conference call that there are at least 30 close contacts that need to be tested.
Gorn recommended that Stebbins residents make sure they are staying away from people in different households, wearing masks in public and getting tested if they have been deemed a close contact.
NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson added that anyone who thinks they may have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient but hasn’t been called by public health officials should begin quarantining and call Public Health Nursing at 907-443-3221 to determine how they should proceed.
He also stressed the importance of following quarantine mandates and minimizing travel to Anchorage unless it’s absolutely essential. While some communities like Nome allow recent travelers to leave quarantine after seven days and a negative test, he reiterated that quarantine for close contacts is a full 14 days, and a negative test on day seven does not mean close contacts are done with quarantine.
A NSHC press release included the information that Stebbins leaders encourage people to show compassion for patients who test positive and their close contacts. “No one is picking up the virus or spreading it to others on purpose,” the release says. “Rather than focusing on blame or negativity in regional communities, remember to follow basic safety precautions with your family. Wear a mask in public and around others outside your household, keep your distance from others, stay home if you feel sick and don’t travel unless it is necessary.”
Statewide, new cases have been down in the last week, a trend Dr. Peterson attributed to the tightening of restrictions in cities during the month of August. There have been 6,160 total cases since the start of the pandemic, with 3,208 currently active. Across Alaska, 225 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 39 have died.
The Bering Strait/Norton Sound region has had 50 total cases, nine of which are currently active. Seven of those active cases are currently in the region, and two are regional residents traveling elsewhere. There have been no hospitalizations and no deaths.
According to a NSHC press release, many people who test positive for COVID-19 never notice any symptoms, but others experience mild, moderate or even severe symptoms, which can lead to hospitalization. NSHC’s COVID-19 cases have run the gamut of the different levels of severity.