Public Media for Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
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Delta Variant Making Move On Unvaccinated

Dr. Liz Bates prepares for COVID-19 testing at the YKHC testing tent on March 25, 2020. She and Dr. Ellen Hodges were recognized by Sen. Dan Sullivan for leading vaccination efforts in the Y-K Delta.
Katie Basile

The pause in COVID-19 cases appears to be over. Last week, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation reported checking in its first COVID-19 patient to the hospital since April 11. Dr. Elizabeth Bates, with YKHC, thinks that the increased presence of the Delta variant of the virus will lead to even more hospitalizations.

“And we’re also concerned that the Delta variant is twice as contagious as the original COVID-19, or the wild type as we call it," said Bates. “We also know there’s good data suggesting that it’s more likely to lead to hospitalization and death than the original COVID-19.”

The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing throughout Alaska, and that includes the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. During the last month, there have been 147 new cases of COVID-19 in the region. One of those cases was the Delta variant, which is more contagious than the original type of COVID-19 and is increasing in prevalence throughout the United States.

Bates pointed to statistics indicating that the Delta variant now accounts for half the cases in the U.S. She said that vaccines are even more important now.

“We know the vaccines, particularly the Pfizer and Moderna, are highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death, even in the Delta variant. And so we’ve kind of been in a race against time from the beginning to get our communities fully vaccinated before the variants arrived. And now they‘re here, and its more important than ever to get fully vaccinated and to schedule an appointment,” Bates said.

Vaccines are available for free in Bethel and surrounding villages. In Bethel, you can call 543-6949 or go to the vaccine center on the second floor of the new wing of the Bethel hospital. People can also stop by between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., or between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. In the villages, you can fill out a survey on the YKHC Facebook page or call the village clinic to make a vaccination appointment.

Johanna Eurich's vivid broadcast productions have been widely heard on National Public Radio since 1978. She spent her childhood speaking Thai, then learned English as a teenager and was educated at a dance academy, boarding schools and with leading intellectuals at her grandparents' dinner table in Philadelphia.
Olivia was a News Reporter for KYUK from 2020-2022.
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