First COVID case announced in Bering Strait region

A microscopic image of coronavirus (Photo courtesy of NIAID)

Norton Sound Health Corporation announced Tuesday that the Bering Strait Region has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

At this time, NSHC is not sharing information on which of the sixteen communities in the region the patient is from, said public relations manager Reba Lean. However, the individual is reportedly self-isolating and is in contact with the State’s Section of Epidemiology.

“In our region, every community is so small and as soon as we identify the location, people start making assumptions and guesses and it becomes a violation of privacy,” said Lean.

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Lean also says that the regional hospital has been preparing for this situation for weeks and their existing policies and regulations will remain in place to keep the coronavirus contained, but that the corporation learned of the diagnosis on Tuesday.

“Confirmed patients and even presumed to be confirmed patients, we ask them to self-isolate,” said Lean about the region’s policy.

The case is not included in the state health department’s count from Tuesday because of the state’s 24-hour reporting cycle.

Related: Alaska COVID-19 update: A ninth death, eight new cases and 13 more recoveries

NSHC encouraged everyone to continue following the local and state health mandates which include wearing face coverings when going out in public. The latest mandate issued by Gov. Mike Dunleavy allows the state to use college dorms, hotels and other buildings to house specific groups of people including health care workers and people who are homeless and have tested positive for the disease.

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The Department of Health and Social Services is expected to release more information on the Bering Strait Region’s first case within the next 24 hours.

With additional reporting by Alaska Public Media’s Lex Treinen