The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation recommended that all villages in the region extend their community lockdowns for an additional 30 days, until Jan. 16, 2021.
The health corporation initially recommended a month-long, region-wide lockdown on Nov. 16 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Most communities did so. During that time transmission rates have dropped slightly, but the region still maintains the highest coronavirus case rates in the state, and some of the highest rates in the country. Also, the Bethel hospital continues admitting COVID-19 patients and medevacing critically ill patients to larger hospitals.
COVID-19 vaccinations began in Bethel on Dec. 17 for Elder’s home residents and regional health care workers, but the vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public for months. For now, the main tools to contain the virus’ spread remain wearing masks and avoiding gatherings. The lockdown recommendation comes as the holidays approach, and as the annual peak of respiratory illness season nears in January and February.
“We acknowledge the grief related to changing holiday traditions, canceling travel plans, and spending these moments with only the individuals who live in the four walls of your household,” YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges said in a press release recommending the lockdown extension issued on Dec. 18. “But taking these difficult actions now will ensure the ones we love, who may be most at-risk to severe illness from the disease, are here for years and several more holidays to come.”