Five employees of Bethel courthouse and jail test positive for COVID-19

A ramp leads to a blue door. A sign abovev reads 'Nora Guinn Justice Complex)
The Alaska courthouse in Bethel (Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK)

Five people who work at Bethel’s courthouse and state-run jail have tested positive for COVID-19, as the number of cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta continues to spike.

The positive cases include two Bethel courthouse employees, and three staff members at the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center. Sarah Gallagher, with the Alaska Department of Corrections, says that the department is testing everyone who has been exposed, including 39 inmates who were tested on Aug. 14.

Gallagher said that before the pandemic hit Bethel, the correctional center had split inmates up into smaller units called mods.

“So one mod doesn’t have contact with another mod, just like we are not supposed to have contact outside of our household members,” Gallagher said.

The corrections center employs 47 people, and houses more than 200. So far, eight employees have been tested. Two Bethel courthouse employees have also tested positive for COVID-19. Candice Duncan, the area court administrator for District 4, which oversees Bethel, said that those employees have been self-isolating.

“YKHC has been doing the contact tracing, and scheduling rapid testing identified through that process as being in close contact,” Duncan said.

Duncan said that people who have been in close contact with the people who tested positive must quarantine for 14 days, and must have two negative test results before returning to work.

YKHC has announced 13 cases last week, the biggest spike in positive cases since the pandemic began. Most of the positive cases have been linked to one travel-related case. It’s unclear if the people who tested positive at the corrections center and courthouse are from that same cluster.

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