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Two residents at Bethel Long Term Care facility test positive for COVID-19

On November 8, two residents at the YKHC Long Term Care facility in Bethel tested positive for COVID-19. There are currently 15 residents at the Long Term Care facility.

Following the positive COVID-19 test result of one non-patient care employee during routine surveillance of all staff at the facility on November 7, YKHC conducted facility wide testing of all staff and residents. All staff and residents were tested late in the day on November 7, using an in-house rapid molecular analyzer. Two of the test results for residents returned positive. The remaining test results for residents and all staff returned negative. The residents who tested positive are in isolation.

“We stand with all of the residents of our Long Term Care facilities and share in the concern they and their families are feeling,” said YKHC VP of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney. “Earlier today we notified all of the families of today’s news and will continue to practice the most stringent COVID-19 precautions for the protection of everyone.”

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is currently experiencing the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country.

“The health and safety of the residents in our Long Term Care facility is of the utmost importance to YKHC, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said YKHC President & CEO Dan Winkelman. “This is why earlier this summer YKHC did everything in our power to urge 100% of travelers to adhere to airport testing, urge the public’s consistent use of protective measures, and encourage the public to take advantage of expanded no-appointment COVID-19 testing. Widespread community-based transmission in Bethel means the virus is spreading quickly, unseen, and reaching our most vulnerable loved ones.”

Today’s results are the first in a series of facility-wide COVID-19 tests of all residents and staff. This testing will be repeated every three days for a period of time to ensure all residents and staff are safe.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for the public to hunker down and practice all COVID-19 protective measures,” said YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges. “Avoiding gatherings with anyone who does not live in your household, canceling non-essential travel, wearing a mask in public, and washing your hands frequently are all actions that will help to protect the most vulnerable neighbors in our community. Although you may feel healthy, you may unknowingly spread COVID-19. Your daily behavior changes will ensure our community is protected from this dangerous virus.”

At the onset of and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, YKHC initiated several protective measures at the Long Term Care center to protect the safety and well-being of our residents and caregivers. In March, YKHC suspended visitation to the facility, began symptoms screening and temperature checks of all employees reporting to work, and all staff are required to wear masks at all times upon entry to the facility. YKHC has ended communal dining, group/congregate activities, and screens residents for symptoms twice daily. YKHC has conducted routine weekly testing of all LTC staff since May and routine monthly testing of residents since June. In October, YKHC began testing LTC residents weekly, but reverted to monthly testing later in the month as some residents did not tolerate frequent testing and all staff and residents were negative. YKHC will again resume weekly testing of residents for the time being.

“Without everyone hunkering down and practicing all known COVID-19 precautions, community transmission will likely continue,” continued YKHC President & CEO Dan Winkelman. “Each and every day a community has widespread transmission it unfortunately increases the likelihood that the most vulnerable will be exposed, with potentially negative outcomes. We, as a community, can and must do better.”

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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.