Three weeks ago, Stebbins had four cases of COVID-19. As of Monday, that number had grown to 131, with 38 of those cases identified on Friday. And now Stebbins’s sister community of St. Michael has its own outbreak to contend with, after Norton Sound Health Corporation identified nine cases of COVID-19 there on Saturday.

With approximately 20% of its population infected, Stebbins remains on lockdown. Inter-household visits are banned and masks are mandated in public spaces. Stebbins leadership will lift the lockdown once 14 days have passed with no new COVID-19 cases.

St. Michael also entered lockdown, and community leadership laid out several guidelines for residents, according to NSHC Public Relations Manager Reba Lean.

“They’re being asked not to visit other households, face masks should be worn in all public indoor spaces, grocery store visits are limited to once per day, the road to Stebbins is blocked to inter-community travel. And if you are identified as a positive patient or a close contact, you need to follow NSHC’s guidance on isolation and quarantine. If you are not vaccinated, please contact the clinic to schedule an appointment,” Lean said.

NSHC identified another new case in Nome on Friday. NSHC encourages anyone who attended Kindergym at the Nome Recreation Center this past Wednesday or Friday to get tested three times: as soon as possible, after three to five days and after seven days since exposure. Unvaccinated individuals who may have been exposed should quarantine for seven days. 

NSHC identified 17 other new cases over the weekend, two of them in Savoonga and 15 in communities withheld by patient request. While the community names of some of those who test positive are withheld from the public, leadership in affected communities is always notified, Lean said.

“So if you have inter-community travel plans right now, just know that the leadership in whichever community you’re considering travel with is aware of all the cases and steps are being taken to keep that community safe,” Lean said.

In response to the growing prevalence of the coronavirus delta variant, NSHC has issued new medical guidance. All close contacts of anyone confirmed to have COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should quarantine for 14 days after their most recent contact. All residents of the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region should also wear face masks in public, indoor spaces such as grocery stores.

About 30% of COVID-19 cases occur in vaccinated individuals, Lean said. Those who are vaccinated, however, have a much lower chance of needing hospitalization or of dying from COVID-19.

“[T]he best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” NSHC said in a recent press release.

The total COVID-19 case count in the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region stands at 175. To date, no one in the region has died from the disease.

UPDATE: NSHC’s most recent press release lists another 13 cases: three in Nome, one in Unalakleet, three in Stebbins, and two in undisclosed locations. These bring the number of active cases in the region to 181.

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