One more regional resident tests positive for COVID-19, Nome stores require masks
One more regional resident tested positive for COVID-19 this week, bringing total resident cases to 19 since the start of the pandemic, with three cases currently active. The newest case tested positive on Saturday, July 18 in a regional village. At the patient’s request, NSHC could not disclose which village, whether the village has already had a positive case, or whether the newest case was deemed travel-related or the result of community spread. They did say the patient is safely isolating, close contacts are quarantining, village leadership has been notified and has begun systematic testing in the village.
In most villages, around 30 percent of residents have been tested. In Teller and Nome that number is higher, at 56 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Testing in the villages can be a challenge because most communities do not have a rapid analyzer machine, meaning that swabs must be sent to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage for analysis. Because the swabs can only stay unfrozen for a limited time before they “time out” and flights are limited on weekends, village residents hoping to test on Thursday or Friday must sometimes wait until Monday so that their swabs can make it to Anchorage before the sample expires. To address this, NSHC has ordered 10 new rapid analyzer machines, one for every village that does not already have one. They hope to have the machines delivered and installed by the beginning of September, so that all village clinics can process tests in-house. Village residents who want to be tested — regardless of showing symptoms or not — are encouraged to call their village clinics and set up an appointment. Nome residents can visit the testing tent outside Norton Sound Regional Hospital during business hours or call into the ER if they are experiencing serious symptoms.
Meanwhile, as major stores in Nome start requiring patrons to wear masks, Norton Sound Health Corporation encourages a public mask order for the entire city. Hanson’s and the AC store have announced that they will require all shoppers to wear face coverings while they are inside the stores. The move comes amid a nationwide push to require masks in indoor public places. Anchorage and Seward have both released city-wide mask orders, and NSHC is encouraging Nome to do the same. “I can’t say enough about the importance of wearing masks,” Dr. Mark Peterson, medical director at NSHC, said in a phone call. “We all need to be doing that.”
On Tuesday, Alaska had 2,041 total positive cases and 18 deaths. There are 1,286 COVID-19 cases still active, 32 patients are currently in hospitals around the state and one is on a ventilator.
In Nome and the Norton Sound/Bering Strait region, 19 total residents have tested positive and three cases are still active as of Tuesday. Approximately 4,500 people have been tested across the region, and there have been no hospitalizations or deaths.