Region sees eight new COVID-19 cases

Eight new COVID-19 cases have been detected in connection with the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region in the last week, bringing the total number of regional cases up to 115. While the Gambell outbreak appears to be stabilizing, new cases are still being found in Stebbins, and statewide case numbers continue to rise.
Three of the week’s new cases were announced on Friday, October 9. Two were residents of Stebbins and close contacts of known positive patients among the initial 12 cases announced the previous Tuesday. The third was a nonresident of the region who tested positive in Nome during the City’s mandatory testing for incoming travelers.
Two more were announced on Sunday, October 11. One was another resident of Stebbins, and the other was a regional resident currently traveling outside the region.
The last three were announced on Tuesday, October 13. All three were residents of Stebbins who had been contacts of other known positives.
The five new cases in Stebbins bring the total number of cases in that outbreak to 18. Stebbins leadership has issued a “hunker down” order and a Norton Sound Health Corporation medical team is working to test all known contacts.
In Gambell, the last new positive case was detected on Monday, October 5, more than a week ago. NSHC CEO Angie Gorn said on a regular conference call that they are hopeful the Gambell outbreak has been entirely contained, but in accordance with CDC guidelines they want to wait a full 14 days since the last positive case before easing any movement restrictions.
Elsewhere in Alaska, case numbers continue to reach record highs. Both Saturday and Sunday saw more than 200 new cases across the state, mostly concentrated in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson said on a regular conference call that Anchorage has 1,000 to 2,000 known positive cases at any given time, although the actual number of infections could be double that or more.
In light of the spike in Anchorage cases, NSHC has decided to limit medical travel to Anchorage to only pressing, time-sensitive procedures. “For anything that can wait for 60 to 90 days, we’re going to wait,” Dr. Peterson said.
Some appointments will be done over telemedicine, and other procedures that patients sometimes go to Anchorage for like MRIs, CAT scans and physical therapy will be done at the Nome hospital instead. When patients do travel to Anchorage for necessary procedures, NSHC will only allow escorts when they’re absolutely necessary, he said.
Statewide, Alaska had 11,039 cases as of Tuesday, 5,070 of which were active. Hospitals across the state had seen a total of 338 COVID-19 patients, and 60 Alaskans had died.
In the Bering Strait/Norton Sound region there had been 115 total cases as of Tuesday, and no deaths.

 Funding for this coverage provided in part by a grant from the Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism.

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