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'The Strength That We’re Gathering From Our Communities Now Is Going To Sustain Us'

AFN Co-Chair Ana Hoffman, YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges, and Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink discuss the resiliency of the Y-K Delta amid the coronavirus pandemic during a Zoom call on July 2, 2020.
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The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has announced more than a dozen cases of COVID-19 related to the region. As case counts rise, agencies and individuals continue to look for ways to keep our communities safe. Ana Hoffman is the co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives and a Bethel community member. She has been listening to people’s questions, and presented them to Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, and to YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges for a discussion to air on KYUK.

“The Y-K region, from the beginning, has stood out, being able to get community health aides to do testing and education, making sure that there isn’t stigma associated with COVID,” Zink said, singling out the region's resiliency and proactiveness.

Throughout the pandemic, Zink has often turned to Hodges at YKHC for guidance on rural health care.

“To run ideas past, to get input and feedback on what this looks like from a rural perspective. To make sure what we’re doing makes sense or doesn’t make sense,” Zink said.

Hodges praised the region’s cooperation in limiting the spread of the virus.

“I again cannot say enough in how great our villages have been," Hodges said, "and our tribal councils and city governments in being proactive to work with us and to work with public health officials to really keep their communities safe."

Individuals who tested positive for the virus have been very cooperative when it comes to listing the people they've been in contact with.

“They talk to us about who they were around. They’re very honest," Hodges said. "I think in every single case, they’ve reached back and said they thought of one more person and want to make sure we had this one person on our list. Just being very conscientious to make sure that we know everyone.”

Hodges even has a special name for the support in the community for people who have to isolate or quarantine.

“I like to call that the ‘COVID kindness’ in our region," Hodges said, "where they reach out and they provide the services that they need. If they need to go to the post office to pick up their mail, or any groceries, or if they need something dropped off."

These partnerships within communities, the region, and throughout the state, Zink says, will become even more critical this fall, when coronavirus cases are expected to increase as people begin spending more time indoors where the virus is more transmittable.

“Finding ways to be connected and resilient now is going to be really, really important to be able to be resilient through the fall and winter," Zink said. "To make sure we’ve got really good outcomes associated with this worldwide pandemic."

AFN co-chair Ana Hoffman agreed and offered a message of hope.

“It could be for another year that we are dealing with this," Hoffman said. "And the strength that we’re gathering from our communities now is going to sustain us through that time period."

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