Highly-contagious omicron variant suspected in region

Update: YKHC received notification from the Alaska Section of Epidemiology late today, Friday, January 7, that a COVID-19 test sample taken within the YK Delta was positively confirmed for the omicron variant.

Following close review of COVID-19 case increases across the region, YKHC believes the highly-contagious omicron variant is spreading within the YK Delta. Although YKHC has not yet received genomic sequencing to confirm this, this determination was made following internal review of regional data and consultation with the Alaska Section of Epidemiology.

Between January 3 and January 6, YKHC saw a consistent increase in new cases over the previous several weeks. The three-day average is the highest it has been since November 2021. Contact tracing indicates several cases are linked to recent travel out-of-region, where omicron is the dominant COVID-19 variant. The recent spike in cases, combined with contact tracing data, supports the strong likelihood the new, more highly-transmissible variant is circulating in region.

YKHC continues to urge the public to get vaccinated, get a vaccine booster as soon as eligible, and practice all prevention measures known to limit risk of disease transmission.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and getting a vaccine booster as soon as eligible,” said YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges. “Data shows COVID-19 vaccination and boosters remain highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death – even against the omicron variant. In addition to vaccination and boosters, practicing all proven prevention measures like masking in public, limiting gatherings with other households, and avoiding non-essential travel will continue to help to protect the health and safety of residents in our region.”

“We have added tools now to help prevent unnecessary sickness and death. COVID-19 vaccination is very safe and accessible throughout the region,” added YKHC Infection Control Director Dr. Elizabeth Bates. “No pandemic lasts forever; we will get through this difficult time. But it will take all of us doing our part, every day, to get there.”

COVID-19 vaccination is available to all people 5 years and older. Final approval of boosters for people ages 12-15 was provided by the CDC yesterday, January 6. COVID-19 boosters are now available to all people 12 years and older at YKHC.  

How to schedule an appointment for a vaccine or booster:

  • In Bethel, call 543-6949 to schedule an appointment.
  • In villages, please call your local clinic or sub-regional clinic. 

For more information about COVID-19 in the YK Delta, vaccines, or to access prevention resources, visit www.ykhc.org/covid-19.

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COVID-19: Call Before Seeking Care

If you have symptoms like a fever, cough or shortness of breath, do not go to your village clinic and do not go to the Emergency Room in Bethel. Instead, call your village clinic, or in Bethel, call 543-6949.

COVID-19 Prevention Tips

Caring for Individuals with COVID-19


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