Nome sees ten new COVID cases, one in Stebbins
By Julia Lerner
In the last week, Norton Sound Health Corporation has identified 10 new active cases of COVD-19 in Nome and one in Stebbins, bringing the total number of active cases across the region to 11.
On Tuesday, July 20, five individuals tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the five, two cases were travel related, and three were community spread. According to a NSHC press release, all five were from the same cluster.
On Wednesday, July 21, an additional five individuals tested positive for COVID-19. The five cases were community spread and linked to the cluster of cases from the day before.
“All of these cases were a cluster, and were tied together,” NSHC president and CEO Angie Gorn said during the weekly COVID-19 conference call. “Outside of our region, the state of Alaska and other states are observing some increased trends, positive cases and hospitalizations.”
A resident of Stebbins tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, July 26. The case is travel related, according to a NSHC press release.
Across the United States, the Delta strain of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc amongst unvaccinated populations.
“The Delta variant probably represents now more than 80 percent of all the cases in the state, and that’s the way it is in the Lower 48,” according to NSHC medical director Dr. Mark Peterson. “It hasn’t been confirmed [in our region] by a lab yet, but we’re quite confident that it’s here.”
Dr. Peterson says that the Delta variant shouldn’t be a concern for those who are already vaccinated, as all three available vaccines work well against all current strains of COVID-19.
The available COVID vaccines are designed to protect individuals against severe infection and death, Peterson said. “The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent people from getting severely ill, getting hospitalized, and dying from COVID,” he said during the weekly COVID-19 conference call. “The vaccine does not prevent you 100 percent from getting a positive COVID test… but if you’re vaccinated, the chance of you getting very sick, hospitalized or dying of COVID is essentially zero. The vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to do.”
But, Dr. Peterson said, the variants remain a significant concern for unvaccinated populations.
“If you’re not vaccinated, this news should be alarming to you,” he said. “The Delta variant is 200 times more catchy than the original strain, so those who are not vaccinated should call the clinic and go in and get vaccinated.”
Earlier in July, Pfizer, the producer of one of the three COVID vaccines, announced it would seek approval for a booster shot, or a third dose of their available vaccine, but Peterson said NSHC is following CDC and FDA guidelines, which don’t call for a booster shot.
“There’s been no instruction from the CDC yet about a booster shot, though I know Pfizer was eager to sell a third booster shot to everybody,” he said. “The FDA is looking at that information, though right now there is not a proposal for that. I’m not hearing anything from the CDC that suggests they’re moving in that direction, but what we’re hearing is that the vaccines are excellent, there’s good antibody response, and the antibodies are persisting.”
The last day for Nomeites to receive their vaccine at the Nome Post Office is Friday, July 30. Vaccines will still be available at the NSHC pharmacy, the Liitfik Wellness and Training Center and at the airport. Beginning in August, Nomeites will be able to receive their vaccine from the NSHC Wellness Bus, which will be parked at the AC each Wednesday.
Dr. Peterson said he is encouraging the City to reinstitute their COVID testing mandate at the Nome Airport as cases across the state rise and teachers and students return to the region for the start of a new school year.
“I have certainly suggested that the City take a look at [the mandatory testing] because we see this surge of cases before school starts back up,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea if we are seeing an uptick in cases. We’re just taking it a week at a time right now.”
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday urged Alaskans to use good judgment and practice common safety measures as Alaska’s limited healthcare infrastructure contends with a high rate of hospitalizations. The call for action came after leaders from Alaska’s healthcare facilities announced concern that hospitals, especially in southcentral, are at capacity and are experiencing staffing limits.
“Summer in Alaska is unparalleled – with boundless opportunities for locals and tourists to experience the great outdoors, it is a common summer occurrence that our hospitals teeter on the edge of full capacity. When you add seasonal workers, a healthcare staffing shortage, and a highly contagious disease such as COVID-19 into the mix, it elevates the need to take extra precautionary measures to lighten the load on our hospitals,” said Governor Dunleavy. “There are many everyday actions we all can take to ensure the personal safety of ourselves and our neighbors, including driving safely, using the right protective gear when operating power tools and machinery, wearing a life jacket, preparing for the elements, extinguishing our camp and cooking fires, as well as choosing to take advantage of a free COVID-19 vaccine, which I have done. Make no mistake: while to some of us these requests sound menial, watching out for each other can save us or a loved one a trip to a hospital with our overstretched doctors, nurses, and paramedics.”
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control has issued a new mask guidance, saying that if one is in an area of substantial or high transmission, one should wear a mask. “This fall, everyone should wear a mask in schools regardless of vaccination status,” the CDC recommends.
Across the state of Alaska, there have been a total of 74,383 cases of COVID-19, 1,850 hospitalizations and 384 deaths.
In Nome, Norton Sound and the Bering Strait, there have been a total of 419 COVID-19 cases, eight hospitalizations and zero deaths.