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COVID-19 Outbreak At Bethel Jail Winding Down After Infecting Nearly All Inmates

Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center
Aleina Tanabe

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center is winding down. There are currently 13 active cases among inmates, but on Dec. 16 there were 75. 

The decline in cases at the jail is likely due to the virus running out of people to infect. Alaska Department of Corrections Spokesperson Sarah Gallagher said that 189 inmates in the Bethel facility have tested positive since the pandemic began. The jail can hold 232 inmates. On Dec. 21, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges said that over 80% of YKCC inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.


The correctional center has been isolating those inmates testing positive by housing them in the facility’s gym. Gallagher said that people are moved back to their original dorms once they no longer have active cases. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the gym had been equipped with beds. Gallagher said that it was converted to a 60-bed housing unit due to an increase of offenders over the years. There are currently 56 inmates housed in the gym. 


Since the pandemic began, two inmates have had to be hospitalized for COVID-19. Gallagher said that some inmates were able to receive monoclonal antibody treatment from YKHC, but she said most of the cases at the jail have been treated with fluids, over-the-counter medication, and rest. There have been no deaths due to COVID-19 at the Bethel jail.


Twenty-four staff members at the facility have tested positive for the virus. Currently, there are three active cases among staff.


Greg Kim is a news reporter for KYUK covering environment, health, education, public safety, culture and subsistence. He's covered everything from Newtok's relocation due to climate change-fueled erosion to the Bethel chicken massacre of 2020.
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