The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation wants everyone who travels into the region from Anchorage to get tested for the coronavirus, and it’s trying to make the process as easy as possible.
The health corporation is offering free testing to incoming travelers at the airports in Bethel, Aniak, and St. Mary’s. These airports are the only ones in the region with direct flights from Anchorage, or anywhere outside the Y-K Delta.
The Bethel airport testing began on April 23; Aniak testing began on May 3. YKHC Director of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky says that St. Mary’s was ready to begin testing in May, but didn’t offer its first airport test until June 9, when the hub community’s first charter flight arrived from Anchorage.
RavnAir's shutdown in April ended scheduled air service from Anchorage to St. Mary’s and Aniak. Both Y-K Delta hubs now rely on charter planes to access Alaska’s largest city. Because the flights from Anchorage are not regularly scheduled, Zulkosky says that the sub-regional clinics rely on charter companies notifying them of incoming flights. Zulkosky says that the clinic staff offer testing on all known charter flights arriving from Anchorage whenever the planes land, “whether it is on a weekend, weekday, early morning, or in the evening. They are not bound by clinic hours.”
In Aniak, 90% to 100% of all passengers opt for testing. "Those who do not opt for testing suggest they have recently been tested elsewhere,” Zulkosky said. It's similar in St. Mary’s, where about 90% of passengers choose to get tested. In Bethel, the percentage is much lower. About 25% to 75% percent of passengers take the tests, although 90% of passengers opted to be tested one day over the July 4 weekend, according to Zulkosky.
YKHC encourages any passengers arriving from out of the region who are not tested at the airport to contact their local health clinic to schedule a test.