Two new COVID cases detected in Nome
Norton Sound Health Corporation detected two new cases of COVID-19 in the region this week, both of them in Nome. As of Tuesday, they are the only two active cases in the region.
The first new case is a Nome resident and NSHC employee who tested positive on Thursday, March 11. The employee had minimal patient contact, according to an NSHC press release, and is currently isolating.
The second case is a regional resident who tested positive in Nome and is also isolating here. Both cases were attributed to community spread.
The relatively low number of new cases is a good sign, NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson said on a regular conference call, but the virus is still active in the community and preventative measures like masking and social distancing remain important.
He emphasized that the single most important thing people can do to protect those around them and usher in the end of the pandemic is to get vaccinated.
Vaccines are available at the hospital and village clinics during normal business hours, and at City Hall every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the rest of the month.
Dr. Peterson added that the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been popular in the region, especially in communities that were slow to sign up for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Stebbins, which had a 17 percent vaccination rate, has jumped up to 38 percent in the last few weeks and will be receiving another shipment of 50 J&J vaccines this week.
Dr. Peterson said the original 200 dose shipment of J&J vaccines has been used up in just two weeks, but NSHC will be ordering more before the end of the month.
As of Monday, Dr. Peterson said around 63 percent of regional residents age 16 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine. Last week, NSHC administered 204 additional first doses. “It’s slowing down, but at least we’re getting some more people each week,” he said.
Next weekend, the Alaska School Activities Association will be hosting its annual state basketball tournament in the Mat-Su Valley. Instead of competing in the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, the teams will play in four school gyms in Palmer, Anchorage and Wasilla.
Gyms will be limited to 30 percent capacity, and everyone present, including players, will be required to wear masks at all times. Upon their return, students and coaches will be required to follow all COVID prevention guidelines in their home communities, including quarantines for the unvaccinated.
Nome Public Schools Superintendent Jamie Burgess added that around 86 percent of NPS staff have been vaccinated, and the majority of students age 16 and older have gotten the shot as well. She said NPS was in the process of planning next year’s policies, but she was hopeful they could return to something close to normal, depending on the rate of vaccination.
As of Tuesday, there had been 58,258 total COVID cases in Alaska, 1,334 hospitalizations and 306 deaths statewide.
In the Nome, Bering Strait and Norton Sound region, there had been 324 total cases, six hospitalizations and no deaths.
Reporting for this story was supported by the Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism