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YKHC believes omicron is spreading within the Y-K Delta

Katie Basile
YKHC announced on Jan. 7, 2022 that it believes the omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading within the region.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) believes that the highly contagious omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is spreading within the region. The health corporation released a statement with the news on Jan. 7 after consulting with state epidemiologists.

YKHC is basing its belief on a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. This week, the region experienced its highest three-day average case rate since November 2021. The average number of daily cases over the previous three days was 48 cases per day. Contact tracing indicates that multiple cases are connected to recent travel out of the region, where omicron is the dominant COVID-19 variant.

YKHC has not yet received genomic sequencing to confirm the presence of omicron in the region. But state health leaders announced on Jan. 6 that between 80% and 95% of tests recently sequenced by the state public health lab have had a marker associated with omicron.

YKHC has been warning of omicron entering the region for weeks. Local health officials are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and boosted against the virus to protect themselves, and to prevent the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed with cases.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and getting a vaccine booster as soon as eligible,” YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges said in a written statement. “Data shows COVID-19 vaccination and boosters remain highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the omicron variant. In addition to vaccination and boosters, practicing all proven prevention measures like masking in public, limiting gatherings with other households, and avoiding non-essential travel will continue to help to protect the health and safety of residents in our region.”

Anyone over the age of five can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone over the age of 12 can receive a booster. In Bethel, you can walk into the hospital any weekday without an appointment to get a vaccine. If you live in a village, call your local health clinic to schedule an appointment.

Anna Rose MacArthur served as KYUK's News Director from 2015-2022.
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