Region sees fourteen new COVID-19 cases
Fourteen new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region this week, bringing the total regional tally up to 189. Ten of those cases were in Nome, the highest jump in cases seen by the city since the start of the pandemic.
The first new Nome case was announced on Wednesday, November 11. It was followed by two more on November 12, one Nome resident and one resident of a regional village. All of those cases were related to people traveling into Nome from outside the region.
On Friday, November 13, three more people in Nome tested positive during their mandatory seven-day travel quarantine. Then on November 14, three more people in Nome also tested positive. The latter three had not recently traveled but were known close contacts of other travel-related cases.
A fourth close contact in Nome was announced as positive on Sunday, November 16, making for ten total cases in Nome over the last week. While most of those patients were already in quarantine and the level of spread has not reached the scale of an outbreak, it is a marked increase from the one to two weekly travel-related cases seen in Nome over the last few months.
Elsewhere in the region, two patients in Golovin tested positive on Wednesday, November 11 after having recently traveled out of the region. While Norton Sound Health Corporation in a press release said there were several potential contacts, they have been facilitating widespread testing in the community and have found no additional positives.
Also last Wednesday, another resident of Stebbins tested positive. That patient is currently the only active case in the village, although some close contacts are still in quarantine and may turn positive in the coming week.
The last new case was a resident of a regional village who tested positive on Saturday, November 14. The patient did not give permission to disclose the community, but NSHC is currently working with the village leadership to facilitate community-wide testing.
Elsewhere in the state, case numbers continue to rise as some healthcare systems become overwhelmed with the number of patients. The Yukon-Kuskokwim region is seeing 30 to 100 new cases every day, and eight people have died, NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson reported on a regular conference call.
The Bethel hospital does not have enough staffing and bed capacity for all its patients and is having trouble sending patients to Anchorage as the rest of the state approaches healthcare capacity as well.
In response to the increased cases, the state has issued a new emergency declaration and health orders, and many local communities have also tightened restrictions on travel and social gatherings.
Peterson said Bethel is “farther down the road than us,” but that Nome and the surrounding region could reach the same point in the coming weeks if the spread of the virus is not controlled.
He emphasized the importance of not traveling outside the region, limiting visits with family and friends, wearing a mask in public areas, and adhering to state and local mandates.
“I don’t want to scare people, but I do want to scare people,” he said. “I don’t want you to panic, but I want you to be worried.”
As of Tuesday, November 17, Alaska had seen 25,041 total COVID-19 cases. There had been 573 total hospitalizations, with 143 active COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Tuesday. Alaska saw its 100th death due to COVID this week.
In the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region, there have been 189 total cases since the start of the pandemic. No patients have been put on a ventilator, and none have died.