The Alaska Native community was well aware of what needed to be done to keep COVID-19 at bay. They erected a fence on the sole road that led into town and stationed guards at the entrance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A century earlier, some remote Indigenous communities adopted a similar strategy to keep people safe from strangers during another terrible epidemic, the Spanish flu, which was still effective.

Rural Alaska Is At Risk As A Result Of The COVID Surge

It was mostly successful. Only one person died, and 20 others were ill as a result of COVID-19 at Tanacross, an Athabascan hamlet of 140 people set between both the Alaska Highway and the Tanana River. The rustic wood huts and other houses are nestled between both the Alaska Highway and the Tanana River.

However, the fight against the coronavirus is far from finished. As the extremely infectious delta variety spreads throughout Alaska, it contributes to one of the nation’s fastest increases in infections. It presents a threat to isolated outposts like Tanacross, where the nearest hospital is several hours away.

Rural Alaska Is At Risk As A Result Of The COVID Surge

The COVID-19 outbreak is exacerbated by Alaska’s inadequate healthcare system, which is heavily reliant on facilities in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, to treat its residents. Because of the high volume of patients, the state’s biggest hospital, Providence Alaska Community Hospital, declared crisis-of-care procedures only a few weeks ago, which means physicians prioritize treatment based on who has the most excellent chance of surviving in the first place. As a result, 19 other Alaskan healthcare institutions, including Anchorage’s two major hospitals and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, have also gone into crisis mode, a situation experienced by overburdened facilities in other states, including Idaho & Wyoming.

While Alaska has engaged with over 500 medical experts to assist over the next three months, the implications are severe for individuals living in rural Alaska. They need intensive care for COVID-19 or other reasons. Still, they cannot find a bed in a facility that has enough space. Occasionally, such patients are fortunate enough to be transported to Fairbanks or Anchorage. Other times, healthcare professionals are on the phone for hours at a time, searching for a bed or institution that can offer specialized treatments such as dialysis to patients in need.

According to hospital spokesman Mikal Canfield, the patient who was unable to get dialysis at providence died. Seattle, as well as Portland, Oregon, are likewise experiencing a glut of available options. In Colorado, a remote clinic was able to find a space for a patient who had traveled from the interior of Alaska. Health authorities attribute the hospital overcrowding to a lack of qualified personnel, an increase in COVID-19 infections, and poor immunization rates in Alaska, where just 61 percent of eligible people in the conservative state are completely vaccinated (see chart). According to statistics gathered by Johns Hopkins University, one out of every 84 individuals in Alaska was diagnosed with COVID-19 between September 22 and September 29, representing the nation’s worst diagnostic rate in recent days, the university said.