COVID cases climb in small, isolated community of Yakutat

The Yakutat Harbor in August 2017. The small community of around 600 people now has five cases of coronavirus, according to local health officials. (Emily Kwong/KCAW)

The City and Borough of Yakutat reported four new coronavirus cases over the weekend. 

Yakutat Incident Command announced Sunday, July 26 that there are currently five known cases of the virus in the small community of around 600 people. That’s four resident cases and one nonresident case. They announced the community’s first case Thursday, July 23.

The Yakutat Community Health Center sent the tests to the State of Alaska Lab for analysis. Because of privacy concerns, officials generally aren’t releasing demographic information for patients in communities with populations under 1,000.

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Local health officials and State of Alaska personnel are reaching out to any individuals who have tested positive for the virus and giving them more information on what to do, according to a press release from Yakutat Public Safety

The health center has offered free, drive-through COVID-19 testing and testing at the airport for daily flights. In a video on Facebook, health officials asked Yakutat residents to return to an earlier hunker down order. Yakutat Tribal Health Board Chair Cathy Bremner said that means returning to smaller household bubbles and wearing a mask when socializing within six feet of anyone outside the household.

“It is up to us as community members [whether] this virus will spread rampant in our village, to our babies and our elders,” Bremner said. “Or whether we contain and significantly slow the spread over the next 14 days.”

In response to the recent outbreak, the clinic cancelled regular outpatient visits but is still on-call for emergencies. Health officials also asked businesses to consider temporarily requiring masks if they don’t already.

Erin McKinstry is a Report for America Corps Member.

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