by Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM
Most Alaska villages have some type of wording in their local travel ordinances that allow for patients to leave and re-enter for medical assistance, providing that they undergo self-quarantine when they return home. But in Western Alaska residents are also faced with overcrowded housing, reduced flight schedules out to the villages, and as always, the potential for weather delays. This means that during this pandemic, there are likely to be people stuck in Nome in need of a place to serve their quarantine.
Norton Sound Health Corporation is preparing living units all throughout Nome to help medical travelers undergo that process safely.
“These units are in a variety of locations,” NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson said. “Some of them are very close to the hospital so we can access them very quickly and easily with staff. And some are located in other parts of the community, but they’ll all be very comfortable units that have bedroom, bathroom and other amenities.”
Peterson said NSHC has 150 living units prepared for patients in Nome. Some of those are currently vacant apartments and even potentially hotel rooms that are currently closed by city mandate.
The Norton Sound region has not yet had a confirmed case of COVID-19 but Peterson says that if and when that happens, the quarantine units are meant to be turned into full isolation units.
Right now, NSHC only has units available in Nome. Dr. Peterson explains that NSHC is also working with Kawerak, Inc., the local tribal consortium, to identify spaces in each of the Bering Strait communities that could be used as quarantine or isolation units locally.
“We also know that we have the schools available should we need them,” Peterson said. “So just like in Nome we’re getting quarantine and isolation units all on a master plan, we’re doing the same with the villages as well. So as soon they’re needed, we’ll know where patients can go if they can’t stay home.”