Three new COVID cases found in region
By Julia Lerner
Over the last week, Norton Sound Health Corporation has identified three new COVID-19 cases in the region, including one in Nome and two in Koyuk, bringing the total number of active cases in the region to seven.
On Wednesday, June 30, NSHC identified two community-spread COVID-19 cases in Koyuk, and one community-spread case in a Nome resident. The patients are safely isolating, and close contacts have been notified.
Variants of the original COVID-19 strain remain a concern in the region, according to NSHC medical director Dr. Mark Peterson.
“Any time there is rapid spread of the virus, there is a potential for new variants to develop,” Dr. Peterson told the Nugget last week. “This new [delta] variant developed in India, and since then it’s spread across the world and slowly becoming a dominant virus in other countries.”
“The property this variant has that makes it different is that it’s much more infectious,” Dr. Peterson said. “It is 60 percent more infectious than the alpha variant, which is the UK strain, and the UK variant was 50 percent more infectious than the original wild-type strain.”
The Delta variant is a particularly ruthless strain of COVID-19, though more studies are needed to understand its properties.
“The one concern about [the Delta strain] is that experts are saying that it seems to find people at risk,” Dr. Peterson said. “It’s going to find the people that are not vaccinated, because it’s so highly infectious. It tends to find young people because they’re the ones that are unvaccinated right now.”
Though the state has not yet detected any cases of the Delta variant in the Bering Strait, Dr. Peterson worries that it could be here already.
“What we do know is that the outbreak in Koyuk was highly infectious,” he said. “People that are coming in contact with it are getting it.”
Last week, NSHC administered 110 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the region. Of the 110 administered, 62 were first doses and 45 were second doses. Three were Johnson & Johnson.
Peterson stressed the importance of vaccination and encouraged anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated at their village clinic or at Nome’s airport, post office, and pharmacy.
“If people have had Moderna or Pfizer, it’s important that they get both doses for protection against the Delta variant,” Dr. Peterson said. “Two doses will give close to 90 percent protection, but one dose only gives about 33 percent protection. There are some people out there who have only one dose of Pfizer or Moderna and chose not to get a second dose, and that’s a mistake. They need to get both doses.”
The Nome Chamber of Commerce continues to promote vaccination through their weekly drawing. Last week, Nome’s Amy Gusty and Unalakleet’s Rani Paniptchuk won the two $1,000 prizes. Unalakleet’s Doreen Cooper of Unalakleet, Joseph Martinson and Dylan Ellanna, both of Nome, won the three $200 prizes.
Across Alaska, there have been a total of 71,384 COVID-19 cases, 1,692 hospitalizations and 377 deaths.
In Nome, Norton Sound and the Bering Strait region, there have been a total of 406 COVID-19 cases, eight hospitalizations and no deaths.