YKHC urges residents to get vaccinated as COVID-19 variant confirmed in YK Delta

With two cases of a more virulent and contagious strain of COVID-19 recently confirmed in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Delta, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) today renews its call for every eligible individual in the region to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The State of Alaska notified YKHC Thursday evening that two cases of the COVID-19 virus alpha variant (B.1.1.7), first detected in the United Kingdom, were identified in two different villages in the Delta last month. All individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are notified and asked to quarantine. 

The alpha variant is both more virulent and contagious than the original strain of the COVID-19 virus. The alpha variant became the dominant strain in the United States in April. It is recognized as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. 

“The vaccine is our most powerful tool to fight COVID-19,” said YKHC’s Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges. “We want every person over age 12 to get vaccinated. Since we cannot vaccinate kids under 12, it’s essential the rest of us get the vaccine.” 

Currently, 48% of the population on the YK Delta has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the alpha variant. YK Delta residents can sign up for the vaccine at https://tinyurl.com/y7reeyst or by calling 1-800-478-6599. YKHC encourages individuals with questions or hesitations about the vaccines to call their health care providers.

Variants are identified when COVID-19 tests are sent to state virology labs for genomic sequencing. Due to the high volume of COVID-19 tests performed, it is impossible to sequence every positive COVID-19 test. 

“We will continue to sequence breakthrough cases,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bates, YKHC’s Infection Control Director. “However, since the alpha variant is rapidly becoming the dominant variant across Alaska, we should assume that this will be the predominant strain in our community moving forward.”

“The solution is easy,” YKHC President and CEO Dan Winkelman said. “Become fully vaccinated. It will protect you, your family and the community.” 

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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.