Camai clinic reports likely community spread in Bristol Bay Borough

Sep 8, 2020

The Camai Community Health Center says they believe there is community spread in the borough because three of the six cases reported since Friday were not related to travel.


Screengrab of a video from Alaska Health and Social Services. A Camai staff member organizing tests. July 11, 2020
Credit Alaska Health and Social Services

After a jump in cases over the weekend, the Camai Community Health Center in Naknek announced there is likely community spread of COVID-19 in the Bristol Bay Borough. This would be the first instance of community spread in the region.



After four residents tested positive over the weekend — three on Friday and an unrelated case on Saturday — two more tested positive Tuesday. The Camai Community Health Center says there is likely community spread in the borough because three of the recent cases were not related to travel.

All but one of the six people recently diagnosed with COVID-19 showed symptoms. The borough now has seven active cases — that means those diagnosed are not considered recovered yet. 

The individuals who tested positive are now in isolation, and the clinic and the state public health team is contact tracing.

Camai clinic is still open for testing from 1 - 3 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But each person may only receive a test every other week to ensure that the clinic has enough supplies.

According to clinic Director Mary Swain, the state will not provide any additional cartridges for Camai’s testing until at least October. Swain said the state determines how many cartridges a clinic receives based, in part, on “burn rate,” or the number of people it has tested.  

“So they will look at our burn rate and say, ‘OK, we know we have a shipment. We’re going to give you enough to last for two weeks, and then we’re going to tell you to request more after two weeks so that we can send you more, in order to get you through the month, or get you through the next six weeks,’ or whatever timeframe they have allocated for you,” she explained.


Screengrab of a video from Alaska Health and Social Services. A Camai clinic staff member demonstrates how to insert a testing capsule into a Cepheid machine. July 11, 2020.
Credit Alaska Health and Social Services

That means the Camai clinic may have to send certain tests to the state lab instead of running them locally, depending on the number of tests that need to be run on a given day. 

Swain said that’s a big difference from earlier in the year, when the influx of fishing workers meant the clinic was one of the first in line to receive supplies.

“Early in the season, the federal government allocated so many supplies to the fishing industry," she said. "And so because we were hot and heavy in fishing in June and July, we got basically all the supplies that we requested. Now that we don’t have fishing and they’re still getting this fishing allocation, they have to send them to the communities that do have fishing, so Unalaska, Kodiak, Southeast. They’re priority right now because their fishing seasons are wrapping up.”   

At Camai, priority for local tests will be given to close contacts of a positive case. Next are those traveling into Anchorage for a medical procedure, followed by those who have traveled to the borough and are on day seven or later of their quarantine. All others come after that.

Anyone who has symptoms must call the clinic and talk to a provider before going to the testing site. If you are sick or suspect that you may be infected with coronavirus, medical officials advise you to remain at home and contact Camai clinic at (907) 246-6155.


Contact the author at or 907-842-2200.