Iditarod announces race COVID prevention plan

Dear Iditarod Volunteers, Mushers and Staff,

It seems that there isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t been affected by COVID19 in some way. I couldn’t start this letter without first saying that our hearts, souls and minds stand with all those who have lost loved ones during this challenging time in our world. I’d also like you to know that we stand firmly with our frontline workers. They are the true superstars in all of this.

It is with the reality that this virus is still with us and would be devastating to the Alaskan communities on the trail that we created this cautious and detailed plan to race the 2021 Iditarod safely with a goal of zero COVID19 spread to volunteers, mushers, staff, official media and (most importantly) communities.

We want to be abundantly clear that there is no way we would consider this effort without a plan that takes extreme measures to mitigate as much risk as possible and to protect all involved.  We believe our plan will do just that.  This plan was created by an experienced team of infectious disease epidemiologists led by Dr. Jodie Guest (ITC COVID19 Epidemiology Czar).  This team includes Dr. Kristin Nelson (Infectious Disease Epidemiologist) and Lisa Chung and Zoe Schneider (Emory COVID19 Outbreak Response Team).  Additionally, this plan has been developed in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and with input from other multiple stakeholders.

We are reaching out to communities on the Iditarod trail to seek their feedback on this this plan as we intend to be inclusive in the ways in which we govern, congregate and exist in communities during the 2021 Iditarod.

This race will be like no other. We are requiring each participant, (mushers, volunteers, staff, official media) to undergo continuous testing during the 2021 Iditarod. This is being done to protect all Alaskans and preserve the rich tradition of our Alaskan way of life.

In advance, we thank you for your commitment to this race, the dogs, the communities and to each other.

Rob Urbach, CEO

The Iditarod

Rural communities and health centers have affirmed Alaska’s need for a mask mandate

Dear Governor Dunleavy,

Every day we see that case counts of COVID are increasing across the state. Mortalities from COVID on the national level are setting records, and hospital capacity is starting to be maxed out. Staffing levels are stressed and are another choke point in the spectrum of treatment.

Alaska has not been immune to this pandemic. Although we have avoided the high number of deaths so far, our hospitals are starting to fill up. Our remote location prevents us from being able to use neighboring state facilities. As was recently stated in a letter from Foundation Health Partners board chair Jeff Cook, Seattle hospitals have said they would not accept Alaska overflow patients. The influx of patients and the limited capacity of our health care facilities presents potentially catastrophic consequences for our communities.

More than half the state’s population is under a mask mandate due to the responsible action of municipal leaders. However, much of the state does not have this capability. In Fairbanks, our borough does not have health powers and our city mayor refuses to enact a mandate. While enforcement challenges are cited as a barrier to implementation, simply having a uniform statewide mandate sends a strong message that COVID is the emergency which the Governor’s office has already declared it to be.

Similar to the statewide smoking ban in place currently, a mask mandate will be followed by the majority of the general public simply because it is enshrined as a policy. If it would make some more comfortable you could consider making it applicable for a certain period of time, say 30 or 60 days, because that would give enough time to reduce cases to a manageable level.

Alaska is one of 12 states that do not have a mask mandate. The list includes: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Unfortunately, this puts us on a list with some of the states with the highest case counts across the country.

Health leaders such as Jeff Cook (FHP), along with community leaders such as PJ Simon (TCC) who represents the Tanana Chiefs and its rural communities and health centers have affirmed Alaska’s need for a mandate. We need to take action towards anything that will slow the spread of this terrible pandemic. We need to open schools, and to accomplish this we need to slow community spread. We wouldn’t expect our kids to enter schools without a mask so why don’t we expect the same of our citizens entering businesses and places of work? If wearing a mask was simply voluntary for school kids would that be acceptable?

Much like school openings, mask use should not be politicized and public health should be the number one priority. It is time to take decisive action and step up to lead us through this health crisis. We urge the Governor to take the lead that so many other states have done and implement a statewide mask mandate.

Representatives Wool, Hopkin, Hannan, Kreiss-Tomkins, Ortiz, Josephson, Tarr, Drummond, Zulkosky, Spohnholz, and Representative-Elect Snyder


Our actions impact people’s lives

Hi again,

Since, who knows when, alcohol has been a real problem. It has destroyed many people’s lives, families, and friendships. Cost people jobs and lives. People often don’t remember what happened. They do stupid things, things they would laugh at if they were sober.

I think if people need some kind of a drug or something, natural medicines should be good enough. At least you know what is happening around you, unlike other man-made by-products. Especially ones they know aren’t good for you, yet they keep trying to prescribe.

I often tell them I will wait until I am older when it might be effective, instead of it not working then, and having to try to find one that will. That is why Our Ancestors had Native medicines they believe worked, and they still work if you take them.

We need to break the cycle of abuse. You have to decide it for yourself, and your loved ones, along with your future generations that you are ready to change, to not drink or do hard drugs, so that you can enjoy the things you cherish. Only you can make the choice for yourself. What do you think you’re worth? What is your family worth? Your job? All the precious memories you can make/have?

That is totally up to you. You can waste your life away or, make the most of it. Do things you enjoy. Do them with other people who enjoy doing them too. Remember, you are never alone… there are people out there who really love you and care what happens to you. You need to remember that your actions impact people’s lives.

God didn’t put you into this world to waste your time playing games on your phone, computer, TV, etc. He put you here that you might help out people. Not judge them, but to be their friend. To support them in their time of need. To go out there and do things with each other. To be there for each other no matter what.

God blesses us with people for only a short time. Enjoy it while you can. And be grateful for the time you had with each other. For: if you believe in God – you will see the people you love again…

Remember this is how they will remember you always and forever – your actions count. Take care you all.

Karen Nanouk

Unalakleet, AK

Example: 9075434113