FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nome, Alaska – A highly contagious variant of COVID-19 that has ravaged India has made its way to Alaska. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has identified 13 cases of the Delta variant in positive COVID-19 swabs. Alaska’s first Delta variant case was found May 30.
Now is the time to get vaccinated for those who are eligible but have not yet done so. The region has not yet met its goal of herd immunity at 70% of the entire population vaccinated, but every individual who chooses to get vaccinated is helping put barriers in the way of the virus’ spread.
U.S. health officials say the Delta variant will become the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. in a short time. It is classified as a “variant of concern” because it is much more easily spread than the original virus, it causes more severe illness, and it is more likely to lead to hospitalizations.
While the current dominant strain in the U.S. is the Alpha variant, which was first found in the United Kingdom, its spread is being outpaced by the new Delta variant, which has dominated India in recent months. Health officials say the Alpha variant is about 50% more transmissible than the original virus, and the Delta variant is 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.
NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson says the risks are high.
“The Delta variant is highly infectious and has a way of finding those who are not yet vaccinated. I really urge everyone who is eligible to please get in to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said. “Right now, we are seeing outbreaks of COVID-19 in unvaccinated people in many parts of the state. The Yukon-Kuskokwim village of Hooper Bay and our own village of Koyuk are having significant outbreaks. Please get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you.”
Those who are not yet vaccinated in the region are not protected against these highly transmissible strains of COVID-19. Studies show that the COVID-19 vaccines available at NSHC are protective against these strains. Children under the age 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccines and are susceptible to catching the virus and continuing to spread it.
DHSS has notified Norton Sound Health Corporation of some variants of concern found in the region. Seven cases of COVID-19 from early May were determined to be P.1 variant, which originated in Brazil, and one case from early May was the Alpha/U.K. variant. Genomic testing takes several weeks to complete, so NSHC may not be aware of additional cases with variants of concern.
If you live in a village, contact your local clinic to arrange a COVID-19 vaccination. In Nome, vaccinations are available at the following places and times:
- Nome NSHC Pharmacy: walk in Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-3 p.m. Appointments are available Monday-Saturday at picktime.com/NSHC.
- Nome airport: Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are offered to all incoming passengers 12 years and older.
- Nome post office: Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available Monday-Friday 12-5 p.m.