Active COVID cases rise to 142 in region
By Peter Loewi
On the evening of January 14, City Manager Glenn Steckman reinstated the mask requirement for persons in public places. As written, the emergency order states that until midnight, January 30, 2022, unless modified or extended, “all persons must wear well-fitting masks or cloth coverings over their noses and mouths when they are indoors in public settings around people who don’t live in your household or communal spaces outside the home where physical distancing is not possible and in all places of business. This includes all customers and visitors of businesses that are open and operating.”
The City has purchased test kits, which will be distributed to businesses through the Chamber of Commerce. Steckman said on Monday, January 17 that they are waiting on the arrival of two orders of test kits, one through the State, and one through a private purchase. Test kits come in orders of 864 at a time, so the City is currently waiting on the arrival on 1,728 kits. He also encouraged people to get tested at the airport when they come back to the region.
Additionally, Norton Sound Health Corporation Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson has regularly encouraged people to come and get tested if they want to, citing an adequate supply.
If all of these tests weren’t enough, President Joe Biden is purchasing one billion test kits, five hundred million of which will be available for Americans to order for free. Starting January 19, anyone will be able to order their tests online at COVIDTests.gov. Tests will typically ship within 7 to 12 days of ordering. All private health insurance plans are now also required to cover the cost of over the counter, at-home COVID tests, effective January 15, 2022.
The nation, which is 63 percent fully vaccinated and only 24 percent boosted, has been averaging more than 800,000 new cases a day for the past week.
A press release from the NSHC warns that “As the active case count continues to grow in the region, the rest of Alaska is also seeing a steep incline in new cases.” In the last 14 days, there has been a 241 percent increase in the daily average of new cases in the state per 100,000 people. The U.S. as a whole has seen a 62 percent increase in the last 14 days. The Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services says the sharp uptick in cases is due to the Omicron variant’s rapid spread across the state. Laboratory evidence shows Omicron has quickly become the dominant COVID-19 variant in Alaska.
During the Monday, January 17 COVID Tribal Leaders’ call with NSHC had some difficult reminders for the public. “Don’t be surprised, the numbers will go up this week. We’re going to see that every week for the next few weeks,” said Dr. Mark Peterson, NSHC Medical Director.
Dr. Peterson explained that not as much testing is done over the weekend, so the counts appear relatively low. “I expect our total case count will fluctuate between 110 and 200 based on how much testing is done on any given day,” he said. His advice, however, remained the same: get vaccinated if you haven’t already, get boosted if you are eligible, and get your flu shoot, while you are at it.
As of press time, there were 142 active cases in the region: 82 in Nome, 15 in Unalakleet, 15 in Shishmaref, 12 in Elim, six in Golovin, five in St. Michael, four in Savoonga, two in Shaktoolik and one in Stebbins.
Tuesday, January 11 saw 54 new cases identified by NSHC in seven communities. 29 were in Nome, seven were in Stebbins, six were in Elim, six in St. Michael, three in Unalakleet, two in Golovin, and one in Shishmaref. Of the cases in Nome, 17 were close contacts, nine were travel-related, and three were community spread. Two of these cases were NSHC employees. In Stebbins, five cases were travel related, one was a close contact, and one was community spread. Of the cases in St. Michael, four were close contacts and two were through community spread. In Elim, four were close contacts, one was travel-related, and one was community spread. Unalakleet had two close contacts and one community spread case. In Golovin, one case was travel-related and the other case was a close contact. Shishmaref’s case was travel-related.
NSHC identified 40 new cases on Wednesday January 12. Nome had 17, Unalakleet had 14, St. Michael had five, and Elim, Golovin, Shaktoolik, and Shishmaref all had one new case. Nine of Nome’s cases were community spread, six were close contacts and two were travel-related. One of them is an NSHC employee. Unalakleet had eight close contacts, three community spread and three travel-related new cases. All of the new cases in Elim, Golovin, and St. Michael were close contacts. Shishmaref’s one case was travel-related and Shaktoolik’s one case was via community spread.
On Thursday, January 13, 47 new cases were identified in six communities. 27 cases were in Nome, seven in St. Michael, five in Savoonga, four in Unalakleet, and two each in Golovin and Shishmaref. In Nome, 15 cases were close contacts, eight were community spread, and four were travel-related. Seven of these cases are NSHC employees. All seven of the cases in St. Michael are close contacts. Savoonga had three cases which were close contacts and two cases which were travel-related. In Unalakleet, two were travel-related, one was a close contact, and one was community spread. Both Shishmaref cases were travel-related. In Golovin, one case was a close contact and one was community spread.
Between Friday, Jan. 14 and Sunday, Jan. 16, Norton Sound Health Corporation identified 85 COVID-19 cases between eight regional communities. There were 61 cases in Nome, six in St. Michael, five in Unalakleet, seven in Elim, three in Golovin, and one in each Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, and Stebbins. A breakdown of whether the cases were close contacts, community spread, or travel-related was not provided in this press release.
On Monday, Jan. 17, Norton Sound Health Corporation identified 68 COVID-19 cases between seven regional communities. Of the new cases, 24 were in Nome, 15 were in Unalakleet, 14 were in Shishmaref, five were in Elim, four were in St. Michael, four were in Golovin and two were in Shaktoolik.
NSHC continues to urge regional residents to get vaccinated and get a booster to help improve immune response. The NSHC press release states that people over age 65 are especially at high risk and should be sure to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines. The Moderna and Pfizer boosters are especially effective in preventing serious illness and death. The CDC recommends getting a booster at least five months after the last dose of Pfizer, six months after the last dose of Moderna, or two months after getting a Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Since the pandemic started, the United States has recorded a cumulative total of 66,421,749 cases and 851,732 deaths.
In Alaska 172, 329 cases, 3,337 hospitalizations 955 deaths.
As of November 29, 2021, NSHC had been reporting 20 total hospitalizations. In an email to the Nugget, NSHC reported 30 hospitalizations as of January 3, 2022, and 35 as of Tuesday, January 18.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Nome, Bering Strait and Norton Sound region has had 2,741 cases, 35 hospitalizations and three deaths.