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COVID-19 Community Spread Confirmed In Bethel

September 10, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.
Katie Basile

Community spread of COVID-19 has arrived in Bethel. Dr. Ellen Hodges, Chief of Staff with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, says that another positive case could not be traced to a known source, bringing the total of confirmed cases from community spread to three.

According to Hodges, “the third case is more recent, and we have finished up our initial case investigation of that case, and also can’t link it to another case or to a travel.”

Hodges said that the spread is not as pronounced as in the state’s larger communities, like Anchorage and Fairbanks, but it can get worse. The solution, she says, is testing. Aside from the regular precautions of wearing a mask, keeping social distance, cleaning hands and surfaces, and limiting social interactions, she encourages people to get tested at the free drive-through testing center at the YKHC parking lot on Wednesdays from 12-4 p.m. Hodges advised getting tested even if you think you don’t have the virus.

“When there’s community spread, that means there are people in the community who have the virus and don’t know it. So we’d like to test as many people as we possibly can,” Hodges said.

If you have symptoms, Hodges says not to wait; call the hospital at 907-543-6949 to schedule a test right away. Hodges added that there is no evidence, so far, that any of the surrounding villages have community spread of the coronavirus, but that could change if people don’t get tested and quarantine when they travel back to their villages.

Despite the new city mandate requiring testing for people flying into Bethel, Tiffany Zulkosky, Vice President of Communications at YKHC, said that there are plenty of people who are still not testing at the airport.

“To date, YKHC has not seen a significant increase in the percentage of people being tested,” Zulkosky said. “Over the last five days, percentage of passengers disembarking that have been tested has ranged between 45% to 70%.”

The city’s mandate has been in effect since Sept. 2.

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