5 Bethel courthouse, jail employees test positive for coronavirus

The Nora Guinn Justice Center in Bethel. (Photo by Dean Swope/KYUK)

Five people who work at Bethel’s courthouse and state-run jail have tested positive for COVID-19, as the number of cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta continues to spike.

Two courthouse employees and three staff members at the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center tested positive.

Alaska Department of Corrections spokesperson Sarah Gallagher said the department is testing everyone who has been exposed. Eight employees and 39 inmates had been tested as of Aug. 14. The corrections center employs 47 people and houses more than 200.

Gallagher said that before the pandemic hit Bethel, the correctional center had split inmates up into smaller units called mods.

“So one mod doesn’t have contact with another mod, just like we are not supposed to have contact outside of our household members,” Gallagher said.

Two Bethel courthouse employees have also tested positive for COVID-19. Candice Duncan, the area court administrator for District 4, which oversees Bethel, says those employees have been self-isolating.

“YKHC has been doing the contact tracing and scheduling rapid testing [for people] identified through that process as being in close contact,” Duncan said.

Duncan said that people who have been in close contact with the people who tested positive must quarantine for 14 days and must have two negative test results before returning to work.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced 15 cases last week, the biggest spike in positive cases since the pandemic began. Most of the positive cases have been linked to one travel-related positive case. It’s unclear if the people who tested positive at the corrections center and courthouse are from that same cluster.

KYUK - Bethel

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