Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp recommends month-long lockdown for entire region

YKHC technicians collect samples in June 2020. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s health corporation warns that the region’s rising COVID-19 surge could soon overwhelm the local health care system. To prevent that, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is calling for the first region-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.

The proposed lockdown would last one month.

YKHC Vice President of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky said that residents should stay at home as much as possible and leave only for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping or attending medical appointments. Residents should avoid gathering with people from other households. She also advised that only one person per household run errands, and when doing so should wear a mask, stay more than 6 feet from others and wash their hands.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region has the highest COVID-19 daily case rate in the state, with no indication of slowing. Hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise, and ICU beds in Anchorage are getting scarcer, making it more difficult for rural patients to get advanced medical care.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is planning for a crisis. It’s preparing to implement guidelines from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for allocating resources and care as the strain on the local and statewide medical system deepens. These crisis measures help health professionals prioritize critical resources like medivacs and oxygen.

“Although this is the first region-wide shelter-in-place recommendation YKHC is providing, it may not be the last,” YKHC Vice President of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney said in a press release. “We will be closely monitoring and evaluating infection trends over the next month. If current transmission rates continue, YKHC may suggest communities extend the lockdown.”

The health corporation is also suspending non-emergency surgeries for a month.

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