Coronavirus Cautions Hit Iditarod Race

Mar 14, 2020

Sign tells mushers to stay out of the village of Nulato.
Credit Zachariah Hughes

There may be fewer people at the finish line to see the dog teams come in, but the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to Nome is still on. 

Jessie Royer was first into the Nulato checkpoint, arriving at 6 a.m. on March 14. Richie Diehl’s team came in an hour later, followed by Thomas Warner and Pete Kaiser. Brent Sass, who led the race out of Galena yesterday afternoon, followed his usual habit of passing through the checkpoint and heading out to camp on the trail. 

A little after midnight, Jessica Klejka arrived in Ruby, the gateway to the Yukon River. There she rested her dogs in preparation for a run down the river.

It’s an unusual race this year. The coronavirus pandemic has relocated and depopulated checkpoints along the river. The run down the Yukon used to have an audience of excited villagers; that experience has been wiped out by the virus. In the interest of public health, mushers are being isolated as much as possible.

In Nulato this morning, cardboard signs told mushers to check in outside of the village, that there was no access to the village itself. The sign explained that there would be checkers, judges, vets, and supplies, but mushers would have to camp outdoors because there would be no place for them to bunk. Another cardboard sign told them that there would be no formal check-in at Shaktoolik, that it would be a resupply spot only. Mushers would find their supplies, and straw for their dogs, 2 miles outside of the old village. 

The Iditarod Trail Committee is asking its fans to stay away from the race’s finish in Nome.