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Alaska Native Medical Center exceeds coronavirus capacity

November 26, 2020 GMT

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Native Medical Center, which specializes in health care for Alaska Native and American Indian people in the state, said it is now over capacity with coronavirus patients and had to open an alternate care site to handle overflow.

The hospital’s Acting Administrator Dr. Robert Onders said during a virtual town hall on Monday that the critical care unit is so flooded that it cannot hold all the Anchorage hospital’s most seriously ill patients.

“So we’re extremely tenuous right now,” Onders said.

There are now multiple critical patients who require individual nursing and who are lying on their stomachs in a prone position to help them breath, KYUK-AM reported in Bethel Tuesday.

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The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region in southwestern Alaska had the highest coronavirus case rate in the state as of Tuesday with about 273 cases per 100,000 people across the region on Tuesday.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel had urged earlier this month for every community in the region to shelter-in-place for a month in response to a spike in virus cases.

The state reported a record-high 13 deaths in a single day on Tuesday, though only five of the deaths were classified as “recent.” Alaska reported a record-high number of new confirmed cases on a single day on Nov. 14 with 745.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

About 20% of coronavirus patients at the ANMC require critical care. Onders said he expects the hospital’s situation to worsen.

“Now is the time to act to reduce our case loads and try to prevent us from completely overwhelming the entire health care system,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, chief of staff for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.