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UPDATE: Outbreak Grows to 41 Active Cases in Nome, Residents Urged to Take Precautions for Thanksgiving

Nome's Front Street on a wintry night
Nome's Front Street, a common thoroughfare for the city's taxis. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

Over the weekend, Norton Sound Health Corporation announced 23 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the region. 20 of those individuals are located in Nome.

NSHC says 17 patients are close contacts of a previously confirmed case locally, two are travel related including one that is a non-resident of the Norton Sound, and the other Nome case is due to community spread. During an interview with KNOM Radio on Friday, prior to the latest group of cases being announced, NSHC’s Medical Director Mark Peterson said every Nome resident needs to take precautions.

“Right now is the time for everybody to really take it seriously and keep their bubble small. We need to get through the Christmas holiday, get to the vaccine, the start of the vaccine. Attending any event, whether it’s multiple people, is simply not a good idea right now, it’s just not. That’s how it kind of spirals out of control.”

– NSHC’s Dr. Mark Peterson

With these newest Nome cases, the local total of active COVID-19 cases as of this morning was up to 41. NSHC told KNOM via email that the count is at 41 because some earlier positive cases have recovered.

Following a cluster of cases being connected back to at least one individual at the Arctic Native Brotherhood (ANB) in Nome last week, NSHC said, “a total of 795 residents in Nome were tested for COVID-19 from November 18- November 21, 2020 by NSHC’s rapid testing program. All results have been returned.”

Three other cases were identified over the weekend across the region. NSHC says two were found in Shaktoolik but did not specify if the individuals were residents of that community or not. Village leadership has been consulted and has a response plan. The local village clinic plans to offer follow-up COVID-19 testing for the community of Shaktoolik.

And the latest regional case is a resident of St. Michael who tested positive through the community’s travel and testing requirements. NSHC says local leaders are encouraging residents to hunker down and limit their interactions, similar to Stebbins’ response during its local outbreak of more than 60 cases earlier this month.

The regional health corporation is reporting there is still one active case in Golovin as well.

Given the state of affairs in the region, Dr. Peterson of NSHC urges residents of the Norton Sound to not gather in large groups for their holiday celebrations.

“You can’t even have, for Thanksgiving, two families get together for a Thanksgiving meal. If you’re not living together, if it is not the bubble that you’re with all the time, then that’s additional contacts. If somebody has COVID-19 and they don’t know it, now that whole group of ten rather than just five have become close contacts. So, you really have to limit your contacts and that’s the way to limit the spread of the virus.”

– NSHC’s Dr. Mark Peterson

The Norton Sound region now has a total of 226 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. At least 45 are currently active with 41 of those located in Nome. 181 are considered recovered.

Image at top: Nome’s Front Street, the main thoroughfare for the city’s vehicular traffic. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM file.

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