KYUK AM

2 People In Y-K Delta Die Of COVID-19 As Severe Cases Rise Following Christmas Gatherings

Jan 7, 2021

Sarah Lind, a registered nurse on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation's COVID-19 Response Team, holds up a swab and test tube at the airport COVID-19 test site on October 29, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

On Jan. 6, two people in the region died from complications with COVID-19. One of the individuals was in their 50s; the other was in their 60s. Also that day, a person with COVID-19 was medevaced out of the region for advanced medical care.

Over the past week, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has seen an increase in severe COVID-19 infections requiring hospitalization and medevacs. It’s also reporting a rise in the number of hospitalizations for people under age 65. Many of these severe infections have been traced to Christmas gatherings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites studies from Wuhan, China to chart the progression of COVID-19. The median time for patients from the beginning of their illness to ICU admission was 9.5 to 12 days, with some patients becoming severely ill a week after symptoms began.

To prevent new cases, YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges urges everyone to continue limiting their social circles.

“They’re catching COVID from their family and friends, so just trying to keep your social circle really small," Hodges said. "We’re all going to get through this, but we have a long winter to go.”

Hodges also encourages everyone to wear masks in public and to wash hands frequently.

The rise in severe infections is occurring while the overall rate of COVID-19 infections in the state has decreased. The infection rate within the region has dropped slightly in recent weeks as many communities have locked down, but still remains the highest in Alaska. Bethel has one of the highest infection rates in the nation. As of Jan. 6, the COVID-19 case rate for the region was 112 cases per 100,000 people. The case rate was higher in Bethel at 232 cases per 100,000 people.

Prior to Jan. 6, the last death in the region to COVID-19 occurred nearly a month prior, on Dec. 11, 2020. In total, 18 people in the region have died from COVID-19 complications, and 19 people have been medevaced out of the region for advanced medical care.

Update: This story has been updated with information from the CDC.