One Year Since First COVID-19 Case Confirmed In Y-K Delta

Apr 6, 2021

Dr. Ellen Hodges tests a Bethel resident at a COVID-19 testing event hosted by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel, Alaska on November 7, 2020.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

April 6 marks one year since the first person in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta tested positive for the coronavirus.

Over the past year, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced that 5,177 people had tested positive for the virus. Twenty-five people in the region have died from complications of COVID-19.

Cases peaked in the region during a two-week span around Thanksgiving, when new cases averaged 66 per day from Nov. 22 to Dec. 4. The case rate for the region’s population size stood as one of the highest in the nation.

Just a few weeks later, in mid-December, the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the region and YKHC began inoculating health care workers and Elders. A month later, in mid-January, the health corporation opened vaccinations to everyone aged 16 and older. Suddenly, in a sharp reversal, the region that once led the nation with its COVID-19 case rate began helping to lead the nation in vaccinations against the disease.

Now, a year after that first case, 11,347 people, or 58.9%  of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s eligible population, have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 9,287 people, or 49.5% of the region’s eligible population, are fully vaccinated. Vaccinations are the way out of this pandemic, according to YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges.

“I just strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The closer we get to 100% of our eligible people being vaccinated, the closer we’re going to get back to our normal lives, where we can visit with our friends and family without fear of catching COVID, and where we can engage in our jobs and in commerce, and go to restaurants and travel,” Hodges said.

Over the past two weeks, YKHC has announced an average of 6.2 cases per day, about a tenth of the cases diagnosed during the region’s peak.

YKHC is asking all parents and guardians of 12-to-15 year olds to go ahead and sign up their adolescent for a COVID-19 vaccine in case the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for this age group. Pfizer has completed clinical trials of its vaccine on 12 to 15 year olds and reports that no adolescents who received the vaccine had any serious side effects or contracted COVID-19.