Kodiak reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Added to the three cases reported on Tuesday, the archipelago’s total case count since April is now 118, with 20 considered active.
Eleven of the 12 cases reported on Wednesday were close contacts of a previous case and had already been quarantined before they were notified by public health contact tracers. The other one is a travel-related case. The three cases from Tuesday were all travel-related cases.
All 15 are Kodiak residents. Twelve cases in one day is Kodiak’s highest single-day total since Aug. 5, when 26 seafood processing workers based in Alitak were announced.
One of those recent cases was Kodiak High School Principal Neil Hecht. He and Superintendent Larry LeDoux announced in a letter on Tuesday that Hecht had contracted the virus.
“On Wednesday, October 21, I became aware that I may have been in close contact with someone that was exhibiting COVID-like symptoms,” Hecht wrote.
“My children and I stayed out of the Kodiak High School building starting on Thursday, October 22. On Thursday and Friday, while following protocols, we received two negative COVID-19 tests. I was confident that we did not impact the safe operation of Kodiak High School after receiving the negative results on Thursday and Friday.”
But then he tested positive on Tuesday. He felt that sacrificing some personal privacy would encourage others to take virus protocols seriously.
“On Tuesday, October 27, I received a positive test for COVID-19. I shared my story with the Kodiak High School faculty and staff as a way to explain the importance of taking precautions when you feel sick or are around someone with symptoms, and each person has different levels of symptoms and illness,” he wrote.
“Another reason I share my story with everyone and gave up a little bit of my personal privacy is to send the message to the community to take COVID-19 seriously. Also, do not hesitate to take precautions out of a perceived stigma of what others may think about you for being positive, the overall health of our community is just that important.”
Public Health Nurse Bonny Weed said that the 11 non-travel-related cases were in the same household, which made quarantining slightly easier.
She said she was worried about in-state travel as a driver of viral spread to Kodiak.
“We have had at least three local families who traveled to Anchorage shortly before they became ill. That causes me some concern because Anchorage has really widespread COVID-19 in the community,” Weed said.
Anchorage has reported more than 1,000 cases in the past seven days.
“That causes me some concern because if you are traveling within the state, you don’t need a test to return to your home community,” Weed said.
On top of that, people who do travel to Kodiak and test in Anchorage have to wait a few days to get their results back because of the recent spike in cases across the state. Weed said she would encourage those people to quarantine for several days until they got those results back before going out.
Alaska has reported 2,440 cases in the past seven days, 350 of which were reported on Wednesday. Alaskans have taken over 17,000 tests in the same time period. That’s caused a lag in people getting results returned.
Not only are tests results delayed, but contact tracing efforts have been too. Alaska employs 260 contact tracers, plus some with the National Guard and University of Alaska. They can only call so many people in a day.
Public health officials around the state are urging people who test positive to reach out to their close contacts as soon as possible instead of waiting for the state to do it for them.
“We’re going to need to count on the positive people themselves notifying their close contacts,” Weed said.