Public Media for Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
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Y-K Delta Cases Jump To Highest Level In 4 Months

Katie Basile

Coronavirus cases are increasing in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and about a quarter of those cases are people who have been vaccinated against the virus.

Last week, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced 70 new cases of the coronavirus in the region, along with two hospitalizations. It’s the largest cluster of cases detected in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta since March of this year. YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges said that the regional increase follows national and statewide trends and is likely driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

“We don't have exact percentages on how many of our cases are the delta variant," Hodges said. "But it's safe to assume that we're probably following the national average, and that our cases are going to, if they aren't already, will primarily be the delta variant.”

It’s not known the exact percentage of cases in the region caused by the delta variant, because not every case is sequenced. What is known is the amount of breakthrough cases, or the number of people who are vaccinated against the virus and testing positive for it. Twenty-four percent of active cases in the region are breakthrough cases, but only 17% of infected people who’ve been vaccinated are experiencing symptoms.

“For the most part, our vaccinated individuals are having fairly mild symptoms. None of our hospitalizations from our region have been in individuals who were vaccinated," Hodges said.

That’s because the vaccines are highly effective against severe COVID-19 symptoms. Hodges said that the region’s percentage of breakthrough cases is not more than she’d expect from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s population, considering that a little over half the region’s total population has been vaccinated and how effective the vaccine is known to be.

“If you expect it to be between 88% and 94% effective against the delta variant, it's not like we're seeing way more cases than that in our population,” Hodges said.

Nearly half, or 47%, of the region’s cases are in young people under age 18. Many of the cases are people who are unvaccinated and have recently traveled out of the region. The effects on close contacts are widespread. Over 400 people in the region are currently in quarantine across 25 different communities.

To prevent further spread of the highly contagious delta variant, YKHC asks everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces.

YKHC also encourages anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to get tested for the virus, and the health corporation urges everyone to get vaccinated against it.

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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