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YKHC Announces Community Spread In Bethel, Recommends Universal Masking

Petra Harpak

Bethel has widespread community transmission of COVID-19 again, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is recommending universal masking across the region, regardless of vaccination status. The masks are meant to curb the spread of the highly contagious and more dangerous delta variant. 

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. After months with no COVID-19 related hospitalizations or deaths, YKHC announced five hospitalizations and one death in July.

YKHC Director of Infection Control Dr. Elizabeth Bates said that “Wearing masks is a proven way to reduce spread of the virus and its delta variant in our region. Masking is essential now that community spread is occurring in our area.”

YKHC’s recommendation mirrors guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that was updated this week to say that people living in areas with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 should return to wearing masks indoors in public places. The guidance is based on new evidence suggesting that vaccinated individuals could transmit the virus at similar levels as unvaccinated individuals. However, unvaccinated individuals are far more likely to experience severe symptoms than vaccinated individuals.

YKHC defines universal masking as everyone over the age of two wearing a mask in any public indoor space and in crowded outdoor areas. YKHC said that unvaccinated people should wear a mask anytime they are outside their household.

Health officials say that getting vaccinated is the most effective way for people to prevent serious illness due to COVID-19 both for themselves and the people around them.

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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