The Alpha variant of COVID-19 may be present in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, but it does not appear to be threatening in-person education at local schools this fall. That’s because public health officials have learned more about the COVID-19 virus.
Dr. Ellen Hodges, Chief of Staff at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, pointed out that the Alpha variant is probably the most common type of COVID-19 in the state and the rest of the nation. She also said that the mitigation measures employed by schools last winter worked, and she is currently not worried about keeping students safe this school year, even when there might be higher incidence of COVID-19 in the community.
“When the pandemic first started, we just weren’t sure if that would be the case. If the students could be kept safe even though there are a lot of cases in the community,” said Hodges. “But now we know that that’s possible, so I don’t think it should affect the ability of students to attend in-person school and have extracurriculars this fall.”
That’s good news for the athletic programs.
Hodges said that the real answer remains the necessity to get vaccinated to keep COVID-19 under control. She pointed out that people who have already had COVID-19 are not necessarily protected from the new strains of the virus.
“One of the things about this variant and all variants is that people who were previously infected with COVID-19, but haven’t been vaccinated, are more likely to get reinfected when a variant is circulating around in the region. So it’s important that we get as many people as possible vaccinated.”
Hodges said that if the region can get about 70% of the population vaccinated, then those variants of COVID-19 should not cause a problem. Right now, Hodges said, a little less than 50% of the total population of the Y-K Delta has been vaccinated.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Dr. Ellen Hodges said that the Alpha variant of COVID-19 is the most common type of COVID-19 in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. She actually stated that it was the most common strain detected in Alaska and the rest of the nation, but there have only been two cases detected in the Y-K Delta so far.