By the Bay: May 22, 2020

May 22, 2020

It's the final episode before the fishing season! Testing for COVID-19 is now available at the Dillingham harbor. We look at two cases over the past week, and we talk about reducing stress with two local healthcare providers. 

People lining up at the Capstone Clinic. Saturday, May 16, 2020.
Credit Sam Gardner/KDLG

Listen to the full show here:


A Chignik area resident was the first Alaskan from the Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula region to test positive for COVID-19. The individual is currently quarantining in Anchorage, where they were tested. According to Dr. Cathy Hyndman, the clinical director for the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, they are still working to determine how the person got infected.


She said that within 24 hours of receiving the positive result, the health corporation sent a team to the Chignik region to test close contacts of the person with an Abbot ID Now machine. Their family members tested negative, but Abbott machines are known to return false negative results.

Hyndman said those test results are being sent to a state lab for confirmation. 

This is the first time the health corporation has responded to a case of COVID-19 in a Bristol Bay community outside of Dillingham. Hyndman said the team didn’t have time to test every person who wanted one during the trip. While the Abbott machine can produce a test result in 15 minutes, the staff then has to clean it.


In order to test more people, the team administered swabs and brought them back to be run at the hospital in Dillingham.

Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham is currently receiving a steady supply of testing kits. People who do not have symptoms but would like to get tested are encouraged to do so at the Capstone Clinic at the Dillingham harbor. Those with symptoms can call the hospital at 907-842-9440.


Trident seafood worker the first positive COVID-19 test in Dillingham


COVID-19 testing has started in Dillingham. The state has tasked Capstone Clinic with testing the fishing fleet and processors coming in for the season.

But after the city’s first positive case of the disease was announced last Saturday, the clinic opened to everyone in the community, with help from the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation.


COVID-19 testing is underway in Dillingham


The clinic could also set up a second site for testing at the small boat harbor around Squaw Creek. Dillingham City’s ordinance requiring a mandatory second test to leave quarantine goes into effect today.

State and local medical professionals, local leaders and tribal representatives, weighed in during a community meeting on COVID-19 in the region yesterday. 

Heidi Hedberg with the state department of public health, said they are working with private medevac companies and the National Guard to coordinate a response to a potential outbreak.  


Hedberg says the Department of Defense can also provide additional support if needed. 

Testing has been a major point of concern for residents. Some think it should be required, while others say it should be left up to individuals to decide. According to the state, testing should be part of a wider prevention plan that also includes quarantine and other safety measures. Here’s Dr. Anne Zink. 


At a community meeting yesterday, Curyung Tribal Administrator Courtenay Carty announced that the tribe was suspending its withdrawal from the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation for the next calendar year. 


Carty also said the tribal council has established a CARES Act committee, and has approved its BIA and treasury funds. 


A security team from Denali Universal Services conducted a needs assessment of the Bristol Bay Borough this week. They said one safety issue is that fishermen will need to come ashore for essential services. With processors limiting dock interactions, the borough says it needs to identify safe ways for fishermen to get groceries and access services. The borough will be discussing that and other concerns with its Emergency Operations team this afternoon. 

Mary Swain, the Camai clinic director, said the borough has tested around 600 people so far. They are also opening their drive through and walk up testing site. 


Swain said that cepheid machine will be installed next week. 

It’s mental health month, and it’s been a stressful time out there. I talked to two prevention professionals about historical trauma, and how people in Bristol Bay can support their own mental health. 


There are a LOT of great resources people can check out. The Native Wellness Institute has Facebook Live workshops. Stronghearts Native Helpline: 1-844-762-8483. The Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault hotline: 1-800-799-7233. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

And to play us out this week, Gabe Dunham with the Alaska Sea Grant and Kristina Andrew with the Bristol Bay Native Association Economic Development Program called in to talk about an upcoming, one-hour radio program that will answer various COVID-19 questions, discuss state mandates and cover local ordinances in Bristol Bay for fishermen this year.



That program will air the first week of June. The date will be announced soon by the Bristol Bay Native Association and KDLG with community announcements.