Rise In Severe COVID-19 Cases Linked To Christmas Gatherings

Jan 4, 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

The overall number of new, confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is declining, but the number of severe infections requiring hospitalization and medevacs is increasing. According to YKHC Public Information Officer Gage Hoffman, the health corporation has traced many of these severe infections to Christmas gatherings.

On Jan. 3, YKHC admitted three people with COVID-19 to the Bethel hospital. On Jan. 4, the health corporation medevaced a patient out of the region for advanced medical care. The week prior, no medevacs occurred, and the hospital admitted three people for the virus over the course of the entire week. This increase is happening at the time of year when flu and other respiratory viruses peak in the region, typically in January and February.

YKHC attributes the decline in overall COVID-19 cases to people following lockdown restrictions. To avoid new cases, the health corporation urges everyone to continue following these safety measures, including hunkering down, gathering only with people who live in your household, wearing a mask in public, and washing your hands. These precautions are expected to remain in place for months. “Continuing a decline of COVID-infections will require sustained and collective effort throughout the winter,” Hoffman said.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has had the highest COVID-19 case rate in the state since October 2020. YKHC has recommended that all communities in the region remain in lockdown until Jan. 16.