COVID case count increases in Bristol Bay

July 04, 2022

There has been a sharp uptick of COVID cases in Bristol Bay in mid-June. Between June 22 and 28, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recorded 14 new cases in the Dillingham census area and 77 new cases in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs. But Mary Swain, Executive Director of Camai Community Health Center in Naknek, estimated that there are significantly more cases than what the department has recorded.

By Katherine Moncure

“Since Wednesday (June 22) of last week, we've identified 121 cases in-clinic,” she said.“In that timeframe, we did 591 tests – so about a 20% positivity rate that we're seeing right now. And those are just the ones we know of.”

That number doesn’t include folks who tested positive at home and didn’t report their result. People who don’t test may still be positive, too.

Swain recommended that everyone in the community take strong precautions, especially because the Omicron variant is extremely infectious.

“Anybody that's in public should be wearing a mask, and that’s regardless of vaccination status, because this strain is so contagious,” she said.

Swain said that if an individual is exposed to someone who is positive, that person should wear a mask in public for ten days. Day zero is the day of exposure, regardless of whether or not that person tests negative.

She also recommended that if people test positive for COVID, they should isolate for five days and then wear a mask around others for an additional five days. People should follow those measures even if they get a negative test within that time frame.

The pandemic began more than two years ago, and Swain said the public’s willingness to continue wearing masks is waning. However, masks are still vital to keep the community safe.

“We know it's getting old. We know it's hard,” she said. “But we're in a high-risk environment right now because of the long hours, the stress we're putting our bodies in. If we can do it for a couple more weeks to get through the fishing season, I think that would be best for everyone.”

In the Bristol Bay Borough, COVID tests and vaccines are available at the Camai Community Health Center in Naknek, and the Leader Creek clinic also provides tests. In Dillingham, vaccines and testing are available at Kanakanak Hospital.

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