Two more regional residents test positive
Two more Bering Strait regional residents tested positive for COVID-19 this past week, bringing the total number of regional cases up to 11. This comes alongside one of the biggest surges in positive cases in Alaska since the beginning of the pandemic, with 50 new cases on July 1 and 60 new cases on July 2 alone.
The first regional resident to test positive last week received the results last Tuesday evening, on July 1. In a press release, the Norton Sound Health Corporation said that the patient was not showing symptoms and had not traveled recently. The patient is now isolating, and Public Health Nursing has begun tracing their contacts. The home community of the patient was not identified.
The second regional resident received the positive results on Thursday, July 2, although the test had been administered outside the Bering Strait region on Tuesday, June 30. State officials informed NSHC that the patient had been in the region during their potentially infectious period, although it is currently unknown where the person became infected. Public Health Nursing continues to investigate and tries to determine whether the case was a result of community spread, travel or a secondary contact. The patient is not in the region currently.
The additional regional cases came amid an unprecedented spike in positive cases in Alaska, with 110 new cases over the two-day period of July 1-2. Anchorage saw the greatest increase with 32 new cases over two days. Fairbanks and Wasilla had 12 new cases each and smaller spikes in a number of other communities. Of the new cases, 85 were Alaskans and 25 were nonresidents, and one patient in Anchorage died.
In a daily update phone call, NSHC Medical Director Mark Peterson said that the increase in Anchorage cases was concerning. Just as Anchorage outbreaks came after the Lower 48, he said, Nome outbreaks will likely come after Anchorage, and NSHC is increasing its medical and testing staff with the full expectation that the region will see hospitalizations and patients on respirators in the future.
Peterson also praised the effectiveness of the City’s quarantine mandate for incoming travelers and widespread testing, citing these measures as the reason for the region’s low number of cases. “The way to minimize [infections] is to minimize the virus coming into our community by making people quarantine and test,” he said on the call. However, he also warned that the virus was not going away anytime soon, and warned of “a very long fall and winter.”
As of Tuesday July 7, Alaska had 1,421 cases, 1,184 of which are Alaskans and 237 of which are nonresidents. The state currently has 25 patients in the hospital, up from 13 a week and a half ago, and 17 deaths.