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Rural Alaska

Nome hospital staff goes back to work days after 2 employees tested positive for coronavirus

  • Author: Davis Hovey, KNOM
  • Updated: May 28
  • Published May 28

Workers at the COVID-19 testing drive-up tent outside the Norton Sound Regional Hospital in Nome. (Photo by Reba Lean, Norton Sound Health Corp.)

This article originally appeared at KNOM.org and is republished here with permission.

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NOME — Health care workers returned to Norton Sound Regional Hospital on Tuesday after the facility closed its doors to the public on Friday, when two employees tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Norton Sound Health Corp. CEO Angie Gorn, “both new cases are hospital employees, they are Nome community members, and they are not traveling or itinerant staff.”

Nearly all NSHC staff in Nome were tested by Tuesday and went back to work, according to Gorn, as long as they had a negative result and weren’t required to self-quarantine due to close contact with one of the two confirmed cases. The final 25 or so employees were tested later in the day.

Every 14 days, Gorn said, employees will continue to be tested for COVID-19 on a mandatory basis. According to NSHC’s medical director, Dr. Mark Peterson, any employees who were scheduled to travel to villages this week are holding off until next week.

Peterson says the two Nome-based employees who tested positive within 24 hours of each other did not associate at all and are continuing to self-isolate.

“They don’t work in the same areas, they’re far apart, and they don’t have any connection outside, so this appears to be community spread of the virus. Now we know the virus is here, right? Because we had our first case in early April, we haven’t had one for quite a while.”

Peterson said while NSHC continues to test even more community members, he expects this will reveal more cases of COVID-19 in Nome and the region.

“When we catch these, and early like this, it’s a good feeling. To catch (it) that early, that is the whole point.

"The other thing that we feel good about is the State (Section of Epidemiology) was very impressed with all the procedures we have in place. Everybody has got a mask on, everybody is social distancing, and everybody’s doing a good job of that.”

If you live in Nome and would like to receive a free COVID-19 test, whether or not you are experiencing symptom, you can visit the drive-up tent at the hospital Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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