Shortages in COVID-19 test kits cause Skagway clinic to stop travel-based testing | KHNS radio


Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway. Photo by Mike Swasey.

Issues with the delivery of test kits have resulted in the Skagway clinic no longer offering COVID-19 screening to travelers trying to cross the border into Canada. The clinic is prioritizing tests for people at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

District officials announced late Thursday that due to a nationwide lack of testing offerings, the clinic will begin prioritizing testing only for people at high risk of infection, especially those who show symptoms or are close contacts to infected people.

Canada requires a recent negative test as well as proof of vaccination for US citizens entering the country for non-essential travel. Skagway Clinic officials did not answer questions on Friday.

But dr. Lisa Rabinowitz, an associate doctor with the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Public Health Task Force, spoke about the global testing shortage that is currently affecting Skagway. She says the state health service is making advances to address the problem.

“You’ve been able to raise a few more resources over the past week. So I think it’s starting to spin slowly. I think there is such an increase right now, you know, internationally and then definitely in the United States, that we are just exhausted with resources, ”said Rabinowitz.

Skagway Clinic is switching from the type of test they normally offer to a different type of molecular test due to the shortage. Rabinowitz says the new NAAT test would meet Canadian travel requirements once the supply issue is resolved.

The Skagway Traditional Council has also restricted its tests. Given the extreme weather in the area and the processing facility in Sitka, the Skagway tribal government was concerned that the tests would not be processed in a timely manner.

This led the management of the STC to cancel the tests on Thursday. If the tests are not processed within 72 hours, they are out of date, but the tribal government still has to pay the full cost of each $ 175 test.

STC says it will open the tests again to the public starting Tuesday, September 28th. The usual test nights on Tuesday and Thursday will resume, but appointments will be limited due to a temporary staff shortage.

Both the Dahl Memorial Clinic and STC are asking Skagway residents to get tested at either facility, but not both. STC management says the duplicate tests put a huge strain on local resources.

STC has also signaled that while they have ample testing material in the short term, they may need to reduce testing in the future if their supply chain wears off.

Skagway officials announced another COVID-19 case Thursday, bringing the current number of active cases to four.

Haines announced two more cases on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases to 16. Haines officials also announced they won’t have newly updated numbers until the end of next week.

Haines Borough’s interim manager Alekka Fullerton wrote in her manager report Thursday that there are several unvaccinated people in the city who are severely ill with COVID, but no official figures have been released to support this claim. She also pleaded with the community to wear masks where social distancing is impossible and use vaccines as the best defense against the virus.

Klukwan still has no active cases as of Friday afternoon.

At the Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway, tests are available for people at high risk by appointment. Tests are available for everyone at the Skagway Traditional Council on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., but appointments are limited. Tests in Haines are available by appointment at SEARHC, and the next test day in Klukwan is Tuesday September 28th.

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