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COVID-19 cases plateau as YKHC closes the Bethel drive-thru testing site

Katie Basile
After more than two years of providing free COVID-19 tests for residents, the YKHC drive-thru testing site in Bethel will close on April 15.

After more than two years, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) is closing its outdoor COVID-19 testing site in Bethel.

Saturday, April 16 is the last day Bethel residents will be able to receive a drive-through COVID-19 test. Starting Monday, April 18, only Rapid Binax tests will be available on the first floor of the hospital every weekday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PCR tests will be available only by request between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays.

These changes come as the region enters its fifth week of having a medium transmission risk, according to new COVID-19 risk guidelines released by YKHC. However, despite having the same transmission risk classification, regional COVID-19 cases have slightly increased since last week. YKHC announced 76 new cases of COVID-19 from April 4 to April 10, which is seven more cases than the week before. One individual was hospitalized at YKHC, and another was medevaced out of the region due to COVID-19-related illness.

Compared to state and national COVID-19 rates, the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta’s numbers are still high. Over the same seven-day period, the region’s case rate was 1.5 times higher than the state’s, and more than four times higher than the nation’s. Last week, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 1,225 new COVID-19 cases across Alaska. During that time, the Y-K Delta reported 6% of the state’s new COVID-19 cases.

Over the past week, in alphabetical order by community, YKHC announced four cases in Akiak, 24 in Bethel, one in Chevak, three in Eek, 18 in Emmonak, two in Kipnuk, one in Kwethluk, 11 in Kwigillingok, three in Mountain Village, four in Nunapitchuk, one in Quinhagak, and three in Tuntutuliak.

Per 100,000 people over seven days, 262 developed COVID-19 in-region. That’s compared to the national case rate of 61 cases per 100,000 people, and the state case rate of 167 cases per 100,000 people over the same period of time.

YKHC reports that 18,269 individuals, or 68% of the eligible population, are completely vaccinated against COVID-19. The state DHSS reports that 64.5% of all eligible Alaskans have completed a vaccine series. Nationwide, 69.9% of the population that is five or older is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Local health officials continue to urge wearing masks and getting vaccinated and boosted against the virus to protect your health, and to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by new cases. Anyone with questions about the virus is encouraged to visit the YKHC COVID-19 Dashboard or call the COVID-19 hotline at 907-543-6949.

Elyssa (she/her) is the Wellness Programming Producer and a second year Jesuit Volunteer/Americorps Member at KYUK. She loves dogs, listening to podcasts and playing ABBA to close out the Birthday Line.
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