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NSHC Tells Residents to Stay Put, Regional Hospital Has 500 COVID-19 Tests

The Nome hospital at dusk, viewed from the front, with light streaming through its windows.

Norton Sound Health Corporation is calling for Western Alaskans to remain at home as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state continues to climb.

According to a statement from NSHC, Nome and communities in the Bering Strait Region are on the right track with the preventative measures they’ve taken thus far, but those actions need to continue for a few more weeks or longer.

Whether or not residents are being tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the recommended action for residents is to self-quarantine and limit contact with other people. NSHC’s public relations specialist Reba Lean told KNOM earlier in the month, if a Nome-ite, or individual from the region, does want to be tested then patients have to meet a few qualifiers first.

“You know the patient presents with the symptoms and the travel and the contact history, we’ll first test them for flu and other respiratory illnesses. If those tests come back negative, if we rule out all other illnesses then we will take a swab for the coronavirus strand and send that in to the state of Alaska for testing.”

UPDATE: Currently NSHC is reporting they have 500 testing kits for COVID-19. As of Friday the regional hospital has performed 14 tests, eight of which have produced negative results while the other six are still pending. According to a statement from NSHC, it can take up to five days or longer to receive test results back from the two existing state labs.

Lean confirmed via email Friday morning that there are some COVID-19 tests available in village clinics, as of this week. She did not give an exact number or further details on where those tests are located.

ORIGINAL: Lean told KNOM earlier this month that only the swab-test for the flu can be done at the village clinics in the Bering Strait Region. They do not have the capability to perform COVID-19 tests in village clinics. And the respiratory illness panel of tests/samples has to be sent to Nome for analysis.

NSHC’s directive is the same for possible cases, those who have been tested, and all residents in the Bering Strait Region – stay at home and self-quarantine if you display symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, can include a fever, fits of coughing, and trouble breathing.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 response in the region, NSHC’s quarantine leader is Amy Hollis and she can be contacted by phone at 907-434-0654.

Update: This story was updated Friday morning to reflect new information provided by Reba Lean at NSHC on the number of tests available and the resources available to the region’s village clinics.

Image at top: Nome’s Norton Sound Regional Hospital. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.

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