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Unalaska Confirms First Case Of Community Spread Of COVID-19

Berett Wilber/KUCB


Updated 11/10/2020 at 4:50 p.m.


Officials in Unalaska confirmed on Tuesday the first case of community spread of COVID-19.  


In a statement, Unalaska's Unified Command says an unnamed individual had tested positive who had no history of recent travel; how the person became infected has not yet been determined. 


The statement described the person as showing mild symptoms and said they are being monitored by staff from Iliuliuk Family and Health Services.


"I'm feeling extremely concerned that we have a case of community spread," said Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson. "This thing has been going on for so long that people [are] letting their guard down, just at a time when this virus is taking off nationwide." 


Public health officials have begun to notify anyone who was in close contact with the individual, and they will be evaluated and tested for COVID-19 "as warranted," the statement added.


City Clerk Marjie Veeder confirmed some close contacts were being tested Tuesday afternoon, and more information would be released soon.


To date, this marks 107 cases of the coronavirus in Unalaska. All previous cases were travel-related, according to officials. The city's local risk factor remains at "medium" for the time being, officials said.  


Unalaska City School District Superintendent John Conwell said the administration is waiting to hear the city's updated assessment of the current risk level. If it moves to "high risk," he said they will move ahead with a school closure. 


"We knew that this day could potentially come," said Conwell. "And I believe we're prepared to pivot into home-based instruction. It may take us a day or two to get rolling, but I think we're prepared as we can be."  


Conwell said parents should expect an email Tuesday night if the local risk factor changes, and said it's more important than ever for Unalaskans to remain diligent.


"I would [advise] them to double down on our mitigation procedures and protocols," he said. "It's more important than ever, now that we know there's community spread, to really keep our guard up and make sure that we're wearing masks and washing our hands and watching our distance. This is what's going to keep the virus from spreading." 


Robinson noted it's taken more than seven months for Unalaska to get its first case of community spread. He echoed the school superintendent: the community must take health precautions. 


"It shows you that the mandates that we have in place are working," he said. "It shows that the companies that operate here are adhering to their plans, and it's working to keep [the virus] out of the community. Because the pandemic's been dragging on so long, we've let our guard down, and we need to take it more seriously."


This is a developing story.



Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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