Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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Iliuliuk Family and Health Services

  • Iliuliuk Family and Health Services has extended its weekday closing hours to 9 p.m. For years, the island’s largest healthcare provider has closed at 6 p.m., which limited service options for community members. Clinic staff say new hours will give community members greater access to services.
  • With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, fuel costs spiked across the nation, inciting a rise in air travel costs. Then a slew of factors compounded the problem: inflation, bad weather, pilot shortages and loads of people traveling sent those prices even higher. And in Unalaska, 800 air miles from Anchorage, nestled between the Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, those costs are landing a hard blow.
  • Unalaska’s clinic is expecting its first doses of the monkeypox vaccine this week. The White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency last month. The disease spread rapidly after it was first detected in the U.S. this spring. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 21,000 cases in the nation as of Thursday. Only three have been reported in Alaska. People in Anchorage have had access to the monkeypox vaccine since early August. Rural communities like Unalaska are now beginning to receive doses as well.
  • Unalaska’s Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic has a new interim chief operator. Jennifer Heller is a certified nurse midwife. She’s been working in healthcare for more than two decades and has been employed at IFHS as a nurse midwife and quality improvement coordinator since 2019. Now, she’s the second interim CEO the island’s clinic has hired since December.
  • Five people were medevaced out of Unalaska Sunday on a Coast Guard C130. “In truth, it wasn't that unique of a situation, except the weather compounded what we deal with on a daily basis,” said Jennifer Heller, interim director of operations and a certified nurse midwife at the island’s Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic.
  • Will Rodgers has stepped down from his position as interim CEO at Unalaska’s main clinic. That leaves Iliuliuk Family and Health Services once again without a chief executive. Rodgers returned to the island’s clinic in December after Melanee Tiura, the previous CEO, resigned. She took a position with Providence Medical Center in Valdez.
  • Unalaska is once again handing out at-home coronavirus test kits, according to local health officials. The island received its first supply earlier this month, but ran out less than 24 hours after offering them to the public. Iliuliuk Family and Health Services received 400 kits from the state Tuesday, each with two tests per box, said Jennifer Heller, a certified nurse midwife with the clinic.
  • Unalaska is in the midst of its largest surge of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, there were 214 active cases on the island, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. One hundred and thirty five are considered community-acquired and 79 are industry-quarantined. Previously, the city had reported its highest number of community cases at 30, during the height of the delta surge this summer.
  • Unalaska’s clinic is out of its most efficient COVID-19 test kits, prompting health officials to recommend against retesting for island residents who test positive with at-home kits.
  • The Unalaska school board decided not to change the district’s mandatory mask rules on Thursday following nearly three hours of contentious public testimony. Dozens of community members — including parents, students, teachers and local health officials — crammed into the Unalaska High School Library for the meeting. Some said that there is no need for masks in schools. Others argued that with COVID-19 cases soaring, masking is more important than ever.