KYUK Coronavirus Update: March 18, 2020

Mar 18, 2020

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation has some good news for the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The hospital can now get more tests done for COVID-19 because YKHC is now allowed to send the sample out to private labs for testing. YKHC Interim Public Relations Director Mitchell Forbes says that means testing is available to more people, and that YKHC has changed the guidelines for testing. 

“Right now we’re telling folks that if they have traveled out of state in the last 14 days and they have those symptoms of cough, fever, shortness of breath, YKHC will test them for COVID-19,” said Forbes.

That means that if you are symptomatic and have traveled out of state, you can get tested at the hospital in Bethel. The problem is that the region is also at the tail end of flu season, plus there are other illnesses that could cause symptoms similar to those of the coronavirus.

“It’s very possible that people could have the flu. Or we’ve had a very large outbreak of RSV,” said Forbes.” So it is a little tricky just because the symptoms of the coronavirus COVID-19 are not too drastically different.”

RSV is a common respiratory virus, not the novel coronavirus responsible for the pandemic.

The hospital has also told its employees who have traveled out of state to monitor their own health, and to stay home if they are sick. Monitoring consists of taking their temperature three times a day for 14 days. Earlier this week, the state recommended that those who have traveled out of state self-quarantine for 14 days. Forbes says that YKHC is looking at those recommendations. The company is putting in place policies and procedures for those employees who can work at home to do so. They tested the system for working at home on Tuesday, March 17.

“That worked really, really well,” said Forbes. “We haven’t officially rolled out telecommuting to the entire organization. We’re working on cleaning up the last few details,” he added.

Meanwhile, public health officials are advising people to stay away from gatherings of 10 or more people, and to keep a distance of 6 feet from another person when in the same space.

“Just because when you do have a bunch of folks in a room together sitting, right, that’s kind of prime time for the spread of this virus,” Forbes explained.