COVID-19 cases on the rise, Stebbins locked out
By Julia Lerner
Over the past week, Norton Sound Health Corporation identified 31 new cases of COVID-19 in the region, bringing the total number of active cases in Nome, Norton Sound and the Bering Strait to 38.
On Tuesday, July 27, five people in the region tested positive for COVID-19. Three patients are in Stebbins and two are regional residents in unidentified communities. All five cases are considered community spread and close contacts have been notified, NSHC reports.
Three other people tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 28. An NSHC employee has tested positive in a case of community spread and the remaining two cases are linked to travel. One is a regional resident in an unidentified community and the other does not live in the area.
Over the weekend, six cases were identified: five in Stebbins and one in Nome. In Stebbins, one person tested positive on Friday, two tested positive on Sunday and two tested positive early Monday morning. The Nome resident tested positive on Sunday. All six cases are considered community spread.
As of Monday afternoon, NSHC identified 18 new cases of COVID-19 in Stebbins, bringing the total number of cases in the village to 31.
“Stebbins is currently under community lockdown,” NSHC President and CEO Angie Gorn explained during the COVID-19 weekly conference call. “We will continue our partnership with Stebbins until no new cases are identified for at least 14 days.”
This is not the first time Stebbins has seen an epidemic. “Stebbins had a major outbreak last fall,” Gorn said. “At one point there were over 70 cases in the village last fall, and it took almost two months to recover, so we all know how extensive community spread can be and how much many people quickly, sometimes overnight.
During the village lockdown, residents will not be allowed to travel between households or other communities, Gorn said. The village has also reinstated a universal mask mandate and will limit the number of people who can visit the village store and laundromat at the same time. The village has instituted a 10 p.m. curfew and will also close bingo for the time being.
In Stebbins, only about 45 percent of residents are vaccinated, which could explain why they are reporting a higher number of cases than neighboring communities, according to NSHC medical director Dr Mark Peterson.
Although the state has not confirmed the presence of the Delta variant here in Nome, Dr Peterson is certain it is here and says it spreads 200 times more easily than the original COVID-19 strain. .
“This is a very infectious virus,” Dr. Peterson said on the weekly conference call. “When it gets into an area where a lot of people are not vaccinated, it will infect a lot of people.”
Dr Peterson told community members that the NSHC hopes to keep the number of cases in Stebbins below 20 during Monday’s weekly COVID-19 conference call. Tuesday morning, this goal was not reached.
According to the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear their masks or face covers in most situations, but Dr Peterson says Nomeites and area residents should consider resuming use of the drug. mask for extra protection.
“What Norton Sound recommends is a universal mask mandate for any community that has a high rate of spread,” including in Stebbins and Nome, he said. “We recommend that everyone, vaccinated or not, wear a mask when you are indoors. The city has yet to do this mandate, but the CDC’s guidelines are the masks and Norton Sound recommends it. “
Dr Peterson encourages leaders in the city of Nome to reinstate mandatory COVID-19 testing at the airport, especially as teachers and other residents begin to return to Nome for the new school year.
More than 90 percent of staff at Nome public schools are fully vaccinated, Dr Peterson said, but he said he did not know the vaccination rates among eligible students.
According to the school’s draft American Rescue Plan Act mitigation plan for the 2021-2022 school year, students and staff will be required to wear masks in any school building where less than 80% of the school population is vaccinated, meaning they will be mandatory in elementary school buildings, where students are not yet eligible for vaccination. Dr Peterson hopes the Pfizer vaccine will be approved for young children (ages 2 to 11) later this year.
Nomeites can continue to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in several locations around the city, including Nome Airport and the NSHC Pharmacy. The NSHC has deployed a traveling vaccination van called “the Wellness Bus,” which will be parked in the AC store parking lot on Wednesday morning. Tests and vaccinations will also be available at the Liitfik Wellness and Training Center on Tuesday mornings.
In Alaska, the COVID-19 alert status is high and the number of cases continues to rise. Between Sunday and Monday, 226 new cases of COVID were identified. Statewide, there have been a total of 76,237 COVID-19 cases and 389 deaths (382 residents and seven non-residents) since the start of the pandemic. As of Monday, there are currently 99 hospitalizations of COVID patients and 18 COVID patients on ventilators.
In Nome, Norton Sound and the Bering Strait region, there have been a total of 434 COVID-19 cases, eight hospitalizations and zero deaths.