Bristol Bay's first resident case is from the Chignik area

May 22, 2020

Close contacts of the resident were tested by the Abbot ID Now rapid test machine. Those results are being sent to the state lab for confirmation.

A view from Chignik Bay, July, 2019.
Credit Alex Hager/KDLG

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.

“It is unclear how that person got this disease," she said. "But by looking at the contacts of that person, it may be able to be determined. And we may find other people who are contacts as well."

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 BBAHC 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.

“So the actual turnaround time is about half an hour per test on the Abbot ID Now,” she said. “There are a lot of people who wanted to be screened and unfortunately some who could not be screened because they just plain ran out of time.”

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

Kanakanak Hospital 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 Kanakanak Hospital at 907-842-9440.

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.