Two NSHC employees test positive for COVID-19 in Nome
Norton Sound Health Corporation last week confirmed that two of their Nome-based employees tested positive for COVID-19. “Nome saw its third positive case of COVID-19 on Friday, May 22, just one day after announcing its second positive case,” read a press release from NSHC. The two patients tested positive during routine employee testing. They started to self-isolate and the State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology and Public Health Nursing began the process of contact tracing.
In response, all NSHC facilities in Nome were shut down on Friday for a four-day cleaning and testing of Nome NSHC staff. The ER remained open.
NSHC began voluntary testing of employees on April 22. On May 18, the health corporation implemented mandatory employee testing once every two weeks. As of last week, NSHC tested 150 out of all 500 Nome-based employees. “Because tracking the virus is challenging, NSHC is encouraging COVID-19 testing for everyone in the region,” reads the NSHC press statement. “Since opening testing to people who are not experiencing symptoms, NSHC has tested about 18 percent of the community of Nome and about 14 percent of the region. The first community case was identified on April 14, and as more tests are completed, NSHC expects to see more positive cases.”
In order to catch the virus’ presence in asymptomatic people and further prevent its spread, NSHC encourages testing. “NSHC has an adequate supply of test kits and urges all members in the community of Nome, especially those who work in close contact with the public, to frequently test,” NSHC’s press release said.
City Manager Glenn Steckman issued an emergency order on Friday, May 22 that withdrew all previous emergency orders. It was ratified in amended form by the Nome Common Council on Tuesday, May 26. (See related story on page 4)
The order now changes quarantine requirements. People traveling to Nome from villages in the Nome Census area (including Seward Peninsula, Norton Sound, Bering Strait region) are not required to quarantine. People traveling to Nome from Anchorage or other Alaskan communities can either chose to self-quarantine for 14 days, or reduce the quarantine time to seven days if they agree to get tested upon entry to the Nome Airport and a follow up testing after seven days of quarantine. Travelers who test positive shall remain in self-quarantine for 14 days.
All test information is kept by NSHC.
Everybody traveling to Nome from outside the Nome Census area must fill out a travel form. The form contains information that establishes “the person traveling to Nome: 1) is identified as and is traveling to Nome to perform essential services or critical infrastructure work or 2) is traveling to Nome for Critical Personal Needs, including subsistenc purposes and 3) has identified a plan to quarantine while in Nome and a quarantine location that meets the quarantine requirements of this order,” states the emergency order. The order is in effect until June 14 unless the Council rescinds the order prior to that date.
In Nome, people may stop by the walk-in testing tent from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. In the regional villages, people should call their local clinics to arrange testing. If you are experiencing symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, new-onset diarrhea, loss of smell or taste, and other cold symptoms), please contact Primary Care in Nome at 443-3333 or your local clinic before going in to be seen.
As of Tuesday, May 26, Alaska has a count of 411 COVID-19 cases, not including 17 non-resident cases, 12 of which are working in the seafood industry. There were so far 45 hospitalization and ten deaths. Recovered are 362 people. A total of 44,964 tests were conducted statewide. Nationally, the death toll reached 98,261 people, according to CDC data.