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YKHC Offering Coronavirus Testing To Missed Memorial Day Alaska Airlines Passengers

Volunteer Lucas Salzbrun sets up the coronavirus test site outside of the Alaska Airlines Airport Terminal in Bethel, Alaska on April 29, 2020.
Katie Basile

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation was not at the Bethel airport on Memorial Day to offer coronavirus testing to incoming passengers. In a news release, YKHC said that it didn’t know there was an incoming flight scheduled for that day, and has continued on-site testing as of May 26.

“Due to recent impacts the global pandemic has had on local flight schedules, and after speaking with local airport personnel, YKHC believed there was no flight scheduled to arrive in Bethel on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25,” YKHC wrote. “Had YKHC received confirmation of a scheduled flight on May 25, on-site testing at the airport would have been provided. Thank you for your understanding during this unprecedented time.” 

Bethel-based Alaska Airlines employees reported that 82 passengers flew into Bethel from Anchorage on May 25. YKHC said that any of these 82 passengers who would like to get tested for the coronavirus can call YKHC at 907-543-6949 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Passengers who flew to outlying communities can call the local village clinic to schedule a test.

YKHC has been offering free coronavirus testing outside the Bethel airport to incoming passengers since April 23. Last week, YKHC issued a statement urging all airline passengers arriving in Bethel from outside the region to opt into YKHC’s coronavirus testing. Currently, less than half of passengers are choosing to get tested.

YKHC CEO and President Dan Winkelman called on Gov. Mike Dunleavy and employers to urge voluntary testing at remote airports when available, in order to help these communities detect and trace any new cases of the virus as state health mandates aimed at slowing the spread of the virus are lifted.

Currently, Alaska Airlines is flying from Anchorage to Bethel five days a week on weekdays. Alaska Airlines spokesperson Tim Thompson said that the airline will increase flights to seven days a week beginning June 1.  Thompson also wrote in an email, “Flight 43 Anchorage to Bethel flew as scheduled yesterday [May 25]. There were no changes expected or conveyed because of the holiday.”

As of May 26, YKHC had confirmed three positive coronavirus cases in Bethel.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.
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