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Saturday, September 19, 2020

COVID-19 update: Bristol Bay officials discuss new information about the coronavirus

The city of Dillingham is turning to processors ahead of the 2020 salmon season. The hospital can now test COVID-19 if anyone shows symptoms.

Tyler Thompson: Hi everyone, we’re back with updated information about the coronavirus in Alaska and Bristol Bay. Today I am joined by public health nurse Gina Carpenter, clinical health director Dr. Cathy Hyndman, city director Tod Larson and Airforce Anchor Brown April Air nursing student. Thank you all for coming to the station.

Thompson: Gina I’ll start with you, what’s the latest?

Gina Carpenter: the biggest message we want to spread, we can anticipate coronavirus cases starting today, Thursday 12 March. We don’t have any [cases], when it arrives in Alaska the risk that spreads quickly is a risk to be taken into consideration. You don’t have to be exposed to the sick person, you just have to be in the environment where a person with coronavirus was staying. They were coughing to sneeze as they talked, laughing where droplet exposure occurred. Then come and touch that surface unknowingly. The important thing is to wash your hands and keep them away from your face to try to protect yourself.

Thompson: I will ask you Dr. Hyndman, has anyone in Bristol Bay been tested for coronavirus?

Dr. Cathy Hyndman: No. No one has been tested in Bristol Bay, no one has fallen into the state recommended test pattern. The state changed the recommendations from last week. I’m happy to say that we have the viral media, the juice that we can stick with a snot-covered q-tip to send to the state lab for testing. We talked about ways to get them to the clinic if necessary. There are also commercial labs, including the one used for COVID tests, which was not true last week. However, you still need to get the q-tip in the juice tube to keep it alive until it reaches the test center. There are time limits on how fast you get there. They must be within 72 hours of obtaining a specimen that represents a challenge in the bush.

Thompson: How was the disclosure with the villages and health clinics in Bristol Bay?

Dr. Hyndman: We have continuous communication with the villages, every Thursday they organize educational programs on who to test, how to buffer, how to protect themselves from the sick, while we do not have the means of viral tests in the village there should be someone sick, we can take it out there in the realm of flight.

Thompson: How are things on the city side, Tod?

Tod Larson: Going behind the scenes is working with public health and the hospital just in case. One of my biggest concerns, there are some, but I’m trying to get the processors. We will organize a conference call to see what their plans are while involving workers for the fish season. Yesterday I spoke to the popsicle, they have plans and a screening method in place. But we need to get everyone on the phone to make sure we know who’s going to be here, if they’ll be screened, what preventive measures they’re going to take, the hospital will be involved, so there are a lot of questions about the processors. This is my second concern for the elderly and vulnerable people.

Thompson: Yes, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are most at risk, the best precaution would be to avoid visiting our elderly?

Dr. Hyndman: This is a difficult question to answer, because we still don’t know if we have any coronaviruses here in the city. I’d say it’s best not to visit in large groups. If one or two people want to go visit their grandmother, to make sure she has a collection of meals cooked and stored in the freezer, if things get worse here, fewer people should go to visit, it’s appropriate.

Thompson: So at this point, if you are in public and you are in a space where you can be exposed, would you advise people to disinfect or clean their person?

Dr. Hyndman: It is reasonable to keep the hand sanitizer with you, it must contain 60% alcohol, please read the back of the bottles because some disinfectants do not have 60% alcohol. It is absolutely reasonable when you come home, wash your hands for 20 seconds, it is about the length of the happy birthday. As for the use of wipes on the handles of shopping trolleys, also reasonable.

Thompson: Before I finish, I’ll ask you for April, besides washing your hands and keeping them away from your face, are there any other concerns to prevent the spread of this virus?

April Brown: One thing that comes up a bit, people ask for masks. We recommend those only for the individual who is actually ill. It will not protect you as a healthy individual from getting those droplets that contain the virus. Also, as they are irritating to wear, it could also make you touch your face more than you originally would. The simple things like that, and considering that we even have to travel, I know that many sports teams have canceled their trip. While young people may be able to go and stay healthy, they may return and bring it back to the elderly and all individuals who have the most health risks.

Thompson: Thanks, April, and all of you who came to the station. We will continue to provide updates here on KDLG as things progress.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200

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