Eleven new regional COVID-19 cases, nine in Stebbins
Eleven new cases of COVID-19 were announced in the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region this week, bringing the total regional case count up to 126. Most of the new cases were part of the ongoing outbreak in Stebbins.
The first three new cases were announced on Wednesday, October 14. Two were in Stebbins and were close contacts of other known cases in the community. The third was a regional resident currently travelling outside the region. The person had not been in the region during the infectious period.
Another case was announced on Friday, October 16 in Stebbins. Then on Saturday, October 17, three more cases were announced in Stebbins and one additional case was announced in a different regional village. The patient did not give permission to disclose their community, but Norton Sound Health Corporation informed the village leadership and the patient is currently isolating.
Three more cases were announced on Tuesday, October 20. All three were residents of Stebbins who has been close contacts of other known cases.
The Stebbins outbreak has now reached 23 patients, with 12 cases currently active. NSHC CEO Angie Gorn said on a regular conference call that they were expecting some more cases to turn up in the coming days. Community leadership has imposed a “strict hunker down” order according to Gorn, akin to the lockdown imposed in Gambell during the height of its outbreak.
No new cases have emerged in Gambell for more than two weeks and all patients have recovered, but lockdown measures will remain in place for the near future.
Despite the fact that case numbers in Alaska continue to break records with around 200 new cases per day for the last five days, the state announced a loosening of international and interstate travel restrictions on Friday. Travelers coming into Alaska from out of state are now required to social distance for only five days, down from the 14 days under the previous state mandate. A second COVID-19 test after day five is recommended, but not required under the new state rules. Alaska residents who leave the state for fewer than three days no longer have to test or quarantine when they return. All travelers coming into the state, except for residents gone for fewer than three days, must still either demonstrate a negative test taken within three days of departure or get tested at the airport and quarantine until their results come back.
Rules for travelers coming into the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region through Nome have not changed. Incoming travelers must still fill out the City of Nome’s travel form, get a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Nome, and quarantine either for seven days with a second negative test on day seven or for 14 days with no second test. Those rules apply to anyone coming into Nome from Anchorage, even Alaska residents who have not traveled out of state.
Statewide, there had been a total of 12,432 cases as of Tuesday. Of those cases, 5,684 are active and 6,681 were recovered. Hospitals around the state had seen 373 COVID-19 patients, and 67 patients had died.
In the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region, there have been 126 reported cases. No regional patients have been put on a ventilator, and none have died.
Funding for this coverage provided in part by a grant from the Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism.