YKHC releases updated COVID-19 prevention guidance for schools

 The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) released updated guidance Monday, July 19, to assist school districts’ planning for a safe return to in-person learning and extracurricular activities next month. 

YKHC’s new guidance renews its commitment to help kids safely resume full-time, in-person school and extracurricular activities. It also provides recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including widespread vaccinations, layered prevention strategies and universal masking unless at least 70% of the total population in the village is vaccinated and there are no local cases of COVID-19.

“Vaccinations are the key to safer schools,” said YKHC’s Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges. “When more people in a community are vaccinated, there are fewer people who are likely to spread the virus, which protects our younger kids, who cannot get the vaccine yet. Everyone over age 12 should get vaccinated.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and YKHC recommend schools use multiple COVID-19 prevention strategies, which each offer a layer of protection against the virus, including masking, social distancing, screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and symptom-free school policies. Removing any of these layers should be done one at a time, with monitoring for increases in COVID-19 cases. 

YKHC recommends schools require masks for all people, regardless of vaccination status, unless at least 70% of the total population has been vaccinated and there are no active cases in the community. When a community achieves those metrics, only unvaccinated people would need to wear masks. 

“We appreciate all the work school districts are doing to keep students and staff safe and educate our children,” Hodges said. “We also are grateful for every community member who has gotten vaccinated. Working together, we will get through this and return to normal.”

YKHC’s full school guidance document can be found at https://www.ykhc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/071921-YKHC-School-Recommendations.pdf. The recommendations are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released July 9 and adapted for the Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Delta. YKHC will continue to monitor CDC recommendations and conditions in the YK Delta and provide updated guidance if required.

All individuals ages 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. YK Delta residents can make an appointment to get vaccinated by visiting https://tinyurl.com/8kb9vth or calling 800-478-6599.

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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.