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There's Only One COVID-19 Case In The Y-K Delta. YKHC Wants To Keep It That Way

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is offering testing to all passengers coming in from outside the region through Alaska Airlines, regardless if they have symptoms or not. 

When a passenger steps into the Alaska Airlines terminal in Bethel, they’re greeted by a person who directs them to a table.

"And then so, at the table, we'll get some, like, identifying information, and then answer any questions that people have about the process of testing or, and like I said, why we're doing it. And then we refer to them to the testing site itself, which is on the backside of the airport terminal," said Dr. Elizabeth Bates, who oversees testing for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel. Passengers can volunteer for coronavirus testing at the Alaska Airlines terminal, even if they don’t show symptoms. If the person wants to be tested, Bates will explain how the passenger can swab themselves.

"And then the participant will self-swab, place the viral media, the swab, and the viral media, and [hand it] back to the provider," Bates said. 

YKHC will then ship those swabs to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, and to the state labs to run the test. There’s only one case of COVID-19 in Bethel right now, and YKHC wants to keep it that way.

"And we know that a broad-based testing strategy is a very important tool in our toolbox for preventing spread in Bethel," Bates said.

ANTHC has sent rapid-test kits out to rural health providers and villages. YKHC has also trained health aides in villages how to swab patients for coronavirus. Bates says that national health officials have said that most cases are spread through asymptomatic people. Because there is currently no recorded community spread in Bethel, the only way that another case will likely appear is through someone who travels from outside of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

"I think people recognize bush communities in rural Alaska as a high risk community, and so they've been really proactive with giving us testing supplies, and I think we've been able to deploy those supplies effectively," Bates said.

Even as the weather warms and people start heading outside to hunt geese and enjoy the sun, YKHC urges people to practice social distancing, stay away from large gatherings of people, follow the shelter-in-place mandate, and limit travel.