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As COVID-19 cases rise, widespread community transmission confirmed in 10 communities

Katie Basile/KYUK

After four weeks of declining COVID-19 cases, the region is now seeing an increase in new infections. Several Yukon-Kuskokwim villages are now experiencing widespread community transmission.

Over the past week, regional COVID-19 cases increased by a third. However, this surge isn’t affecting the entire region. Instead, a small handful of communities are reporting the majority of the region’s cases. Out of the 46 communities that give YKHC permission to report their cases, only 16 reported more than one new COVID-19 case over the past seven days. Of those 16 communities, 10 are experiencing widespread community transmission as of May 27.

For YKHC, widespread community transmission occurs when an infection cannot be traced back to a specific gathering or close contact. It means that the source of numerous transmissions is unknown. Widespread community transmission is different from community levels, which takes into account the number of new COVID-19 cases compared to the resources available to treat patients.

The Y-K Delta is experiencing a medium community COVID-19 level. That’s because there were more than 50 cases over the past week and fewer than 10% of hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. The region has had a medium COVID-19 level since March, when YKHC began announcing these levels.

Over the past week, in alphabetical order by community, YKHC announced nine cases in Aniak, four in Anvik, two in Atmautluak, 12 in Bethel, one in Chefornak, one in Chuathbaluk, two in Kalskag, one in Kasigluk, three in Kipnuk, four in Kongiganak, five in Kwethluk, seven in Kwigillingok, two in Napaskiak, four in Nunapitchuk, three in Quinhagak, seven in Scammon Bay, 24 in St. Mary’s, one in Toksook Bay, one in Tuntutuliak, and 26 in Tununak.

Per 100,000 people over seven days, 410 developed COVID-19 in-region. That’s compared to the national case rate of 219 cases per 100,000 people, and the state case rate of 260 cases per 100,000 people over the same period of time.

YKHC reports that 18,508 individuals, or 69% of the eligible population, are completely vaccinated against COVID-19. The state DHSS reports that 65.2% of all eligible Alaskans have completed a vaccine series. Nationwide, 70.9% 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 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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