Aleutians community of Sand Point sees spike in COVID-19 infections

A harbor on a sunny day with rolling mountains in the background
Sand Point, Alaska. (KSDP)

The tribal health care provider for communities from Adak to Whittier reported seven new COVID-19 infections in Sand Point last Thursday. That brings the total to 17 new cases reported in the Eastern Aleutians city since July 16.

Paul Mueller is the CEO of Eastern Aleutian Tribes, which operates Sand Point’s principal health clinic.

During a discussion on KSDP, the public radio station in Sand Point, he said the recent uptick in cases is “not just affecting Sand Point, it’s affecting all the other parts of the region as people travel.”

Mueller attributed the increase in cases to an event in Sand Point at the end of July.

“From that gathering, the cases have increased, and we’re seeing them on a daily basis go up and up,” he said.

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He didn’t specify which event caused the outbreak.

​Several people who attended Sand Point’s culture camp, a large gathering held in late July, are currently in Unalaska. Officials from Iliuliuk Family and Health Services in Unalaska said people who travelled from Sand Point to Unalaska have all been tested for the virus.

Many organizations in Sand Point have closed to in-person business due to the outbreak, but municipal officials have not mandated any city-wide closures.

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Mueller would not respond to questions about whether neighboring communities have been notified about the rise in infections or what caused the uptick in cases.

Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz, a staff physician with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and member of the state’s COVID-19 task force, reinforced the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and getting tested.

Rabinowitz also offered some hope.

“Although this seems daunting and scary when there’s a surge in cases in such a small community, you guys know how to work together and communicate well, because you are a small community,” she said. “That’s how you make it through every winter — helping each other out, helping find resources for individuals that have a harder time navigating the system. That’s what’s going to get everyone through this.”

Health care professionals advise anyone who may have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 to isolate and get tested.

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