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Community spread of COVID-19 remains in Nome but variant strains so far undetected

The City of Nome has seen a small bump in COVID-19 cases with three new cases reported in one week. Local health and government officials are reminding residents that COVID-19 is still present in the region and measures need to be followed to keep spread low.

Norton Sound Health Corporation Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson says all three of the cases discovered between March 11th-17th are unrelated and the individuals had not recently traveled.

“You know what it tells me and what it tells us is that this virus is still out there. And we still have to be careful. That’s the bottom line.”

Peterson couldn’t tell KNOM if any of the recent positive cases belonged to vaccinated individuals. He claims in communities that are as small as those in the Norton Sound, that information could make it too easy to identify an individual.

What he did say was that he does not believe any of the recent COVID-19 cases belonged to any of the variant strains of the virus that have been identified in countries like the UK, Brazil, and South Africa.

“If we’re concerned about new variants, absolutely, we will share that information. I am not aware of any rural Alaskan community that has had any concerns or scares about new variants.”

According to NSHC, the region’s total vaccination rate is around half of the population, and that includes children who are not eligible for any of the authorized vaccines on the market. When looking at the eligible population of people over 16, Peterson said the region is at around 63% of people vaccinated with a first-dose.

“We’re not nearly vaccinated enough to be done with the pandemic in our region. We’re getting there. But we’re not nearly close enough for routine cases, to stop happening.”

Peterson says the number of total vaccination needs to be at 80% before the region will stop seeing regular cases.

And Peterson reminded KNOM that children can still contract and spread COVID-19. He says that vaccination is the key to helping life return to the way that it was before the pandemic started in March of 2020.

Vaccination is open to anyone in Alaska over the age of 16. Vaccination clinics are open by walk-in or appointment at the pharmacy at the Norton Sound Hospital in Nome from 9am-noon and 1pm -3pm, Monday-Friday. Vaccines are also available at City Hall in Nome on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 6:30-7:30. Regional residents should contact their local clinic for vaccination schedules.

Image at Top: The COVID-19 Virus. Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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