Four new COVID-19 cases in region
COVID-19 case numbers in the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region are down with four new cases found since last week, bringing the regional total to 58. The first new infection was announced on September 10 and the patient was identified as a resident of Stebbins. The case is probably related to the string of cases in Stebbins first announced on August 31, although Public Health Nursing is still working to identify the new case’s exact origin.
On September 11, two more cases were announced. One is a regional resident currently traveling elsewhere who was not in the region during their infectious period. The second is a resident of Nome, and the origin of the case is still being investigated.
The fourth regional case was announced on September 13 and is not a regional resident. The patient had recently arrived in Nome and tested positive as part of the mandatory testing and quarantine protocol for incoming travelers. The patient is currently isolating.
Low case numbers in recent weeks may be due to lower numbers statewide and increased testing in the region, said NSHC Medical Director Mark Peterson, but he also emphasized that following quarantine protocols is as important as ever.
“Quarantine is not just a word you say, it’s an action that you do,” he said on a regular conference call. Most cases in the region have been somehow related to incoming travelers, he said, and quarantining upon arrival is critical to preventing the virus’ spread.
This means isolating away from other people for a full seven days after arrival, plus however many days it takes for the test taken on day seven to come back negative.
To help people understand the travel rules, NSHC has stationed an employee at the Anchorage airport. The employee will give travelers coming to Nome the necessary travel forms and educate them about Nome’s testing and quarantine mandates.
At the Nome airport, though, many travelers are still passing through without getting tested.
Four village communities – Stebbins, Brevig Mission, Teller and Unalakleet – can also now use National Guard Armory buildings as emergency quarantine spaces in the event of an outbreak. NSHC CEO Angie Gorn thanked Representative Neal Foster and Senator Donald Olson for making those spaces available on a conference call. Community leadership in those villages is currently working with NSHC and the National Guard to set up the facilities as quarantine housing.
Statewide, there have been 7,313 total COVID-19 cases, of which 4,867 are currently active. Hospitals around the state have seen 252 patients with COVID-19, and 44 people have died.
In the Being Strait/Norton Sound region, there have been 58 total cases, no hospitalizations and no deaths.
Funding for this coverage provided in part by a grant from the Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism.