The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Stebbins keeps climbing but massive testing efforts and isolation housing are playing a key role in slowing the local spread.

NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson reported on Wednesday that no one has been hospitalized as a result of this outbreak in Stebbins. But a social media post from the Incident Commander of Stebbins reported that last week at least two Elders were sick.

Ward Walker is the Coronavirus Incident Response Commander for Stebbins. As far as he knew earlier this week, the outbreak came from an individual who was following quarantine protocols after traveling but then tested positive after their second test. From there a few family members tested positive and the outbreak began. As of Friday, there are now 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Stebbins.

Walker says the system for quarantining isn’t fool-proof.

What you’re trying to do is reduce the risk to where it’s manageable. And hopefully we’re doing that.”

– Ward Walker

The community has been on a hunker-down order since last Thursday. The Stebbins multi-purpose building and the old armory have both been turned into isolation housing for those who test positive. Walker says most people do quarantine at home but in situations where only one member of a household tests positive, health officials want to get the person out of that house to slow down infection.

When an outbreak is seen or suspected in a regional community, NSHC sends additional support staff to assist the local clinic with testing. Mark Hayward is a physician’s assistant working to get everyone tested. He says there are three Abbot-ID now machines that can process a new test every fifteen minutes.

And all that that means is we need to keep the noses coming through the front door at a rate of three noses every fifteen minutes and we can keep testing until we’ve tested everybody in Stebbins. And then we can turn around and do it again in seven days.”  

– Mark Hayward

Most people will come to the village clinic for scheduled appointments. But health aides will administer the test at a family’s home if individuals are feeling ill, are Elders, and or if immunocompromised people live at the house. Hayward credits the community for such a fast response to help trace close contacts. He recalls one instance where all close contacts of one individual were tested within two and a half hours.

“Within 15 minutes the health aides had made a list of the most likely close contacts. The clinic travel coordinators had already started calling, because they knew everyone’s phone numbers they started calling those contacts.” 

– Mark Hayward

Close contacts are being tested at the beginning of their quarantine, on day seven, and day fourteen. Hayward reminds anyone in the region that the disease caused by the coronavirus can be contracted and spread before a person tests positive. Individuals should not interact with others until they have fulfilled their quarantine.

If you are in Stebbins and would like to make an appointment for a COVID-19 test, you can call the local health clinic at 907-934-3311.

Image at top: Iris flowers and a fishing net on the Stebbins beach (Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM)

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