Y-K Delta COVID-19 Outbreaks Controlled For Now

Mar 19, 2021

A swab and tube for specimen collection in the lab at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

COVID-19 cases are ticking upwards in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, but many factors make these outbreaks more contained than previous ones.

On March 8, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta hit its lowest COVID-19 case count in five months, since early October 2020, at 16 cases per 100,000 people, according to data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. A week and a half later, on March 18, that number climbed to 29 cases per 100,000 people.

Dr. Ellen Hodges, Chief of Staff at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, said that the current outbreaks are contained to about five communities. She calls these outbreaks “discrete,” compared to the outbreaks of previous months.

“There might be, let’s just use a number, 20 people in a village [with COVID-19], but we can link the cases together more easily, and that’s what I mean by a discrete outbreak,” Hodges said.

Whereas earlier in the pandemic the virus was spreading widely and uncontrolled with no clear source, contact tracers have been able to identify the source of each of the current outbreaks, and the virus is not spreading as fast as it once was.

“They’re not raging out of control like they were last fall because we do have some level of vaccination in every single village,” Hodges said.

The outbreaks are contained for now, but Hodges said that could change. She encourages every eligible person to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and advises everyone to continue practicing health precautions, like wearing masks in public.

As of March 17, 10,256 people, or 53% of the region’s eligible population, have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 8,443 people, or 44% of the eligible population, have received two doses. The region’s current test positivity rate is nearly 5%, compared with less than 3% a month ago.