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Y-K Delta continues to report some of the highest COVID-19 case rates in the nation

Registered Nurse Avelina Chung runs through protocol with a YKHC employee at the COVID-19 drive-thru test site on March 25, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.
Katie Basile
Registered Nurse Avelina Chung runs through protocol with a YKHC employee at the COVID-19 drive-thru test site on March 25, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation reported 248 new COVID-19 Cases in the region over the past week, from Nov. 15 to Nov. 21. YKHC also reported two new hospitalizations in-region during this one-week period.

Five more cases were reported this week than last week. Last week, there were 243 new cases, two hospitalizations in-region, and one death. However, the test positivity rate increased by two percent, suggesting that more COVID-19 cases are going undocumented because COVID-positive individuals are not getting tested.

“There's a couple different reasons, or a couple different ways that you could lower cases — you could actually have less COVID, or you can just stop testing," YKHC Director of Public Health, Brian Lefferts, explained during the YKHC COVID-19 Call-in show last Wednesday Nov. 17. "And we have a lot of undiagnosed cases, because we know that when the positivity rates are above 5%, that we're just not testing enough people. And so we track that metric pretty closely to make sure that we're testing enough.”

Currently, the Y-K Delta’s COVID case rate is four times higher than the national case rate and two times higher than the state’s. According to the New York Times, the Bethel Census Area is currently experiencing the fourth highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the country. Last week, the state Department of Health and Social Services announced 2,257 new COVID-19 cases statewide. During that time, the Y-K Delta made up 11 percent of the state’s new cases. For comparison, the Y-K Delta makes up less than four percent of the state’s total population.

Over the past week, in alphabetical order by community, YKHC announced one case in Akiachak, three in Alakanuk, one in Akiak, three in Alakanuk, 10 in Atmautluak, 48 in Bethel, one in Chefornak, five in Chevak, 22 in Eek, three in Holy Cross, eight in Hooper Bay, 33 in Kasigluk, five in Kipnuk, one in Kongiganak, one in Kwethluk, six in Kwigillingok, one in Marshall, one in Mountain Village, five in Napaskiak, one in Newtok, 18 in Nunapitchuk, five in Pilot Station, one in Quinhagak, one in Scammon Bay, 44 in Toksook Bay, one in Tuluksak, one in Tuntutuliak, 17 in Tununak and four in unnamed Y-K Delta Villages.

Across the Y-K Delta, 67 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to state data. YKHC reports that 14,952 unique in-region residents have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

How does the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta compare to state and national trends?

Per capita, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is reporting more COVID-19 cases on average per capita than the state and nation. From Nov. 15 to Nov. 22, YKHC announced an average of 35 new COVID-19 cases each day. Per 100,000 people in the region, about 855.2 developed COVID-19 in the last 7 days. In the same time period, the state announced 351.1 new cases per 100,000 people across Alaska, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 195.8 cases per 100,00 people across the U.S.

The low population density in the region is partially responsible for such drastic case fluctuations from week to week. For example, from Nov. 5 to 14, 243 new cases were announced in-region, which means that per 100,000 people in the Y-K Delta, 838 developed COVID-19. In the next seven day period, between Nov. 15 and 21, five more cases were reported, but the per 100,000 rate increased by almost 20, to 855 per 100,000. Comparatively, the state of Alaska reported 496 fewer cases over the same time period, but the case rate per 100,000 decreased by 35.

“We've had the worst all time outbreak in the United States. If you look on the New York Times, we are listed number one as the worst all time outbreak, with almost 38,000 cases per 100,000,” Dr. Liz Bates said during the COVID-19 Call-in show. “And so I think this is why we are so strongly advocating for everyone to get vaccinated if they can, as soon as they can.”

Vaccines are now available for all Y-K Delta residents who are five years or older. Bethel residents can visit the Wellness Center at the YK Delta regional Hospital weekdays from 8 to 10 a.m. or 3 to 6 p.m. to receive a vaccine or booster dose.

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