A testing headache

german swap

 A German firefighter being tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus/Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes doing the right thing is not easy as Bub Nelson learned when he finally made it back to Alaska in this the year of COVID-19.

After Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced near the end of May that the state was going to replace a 14-day quarantine with testing, the 68-year-old Nelson and his wife headed home thinking they could quickly get a COVID-19 test and return to a somewhat normal life in the 49th state.

Instead, the longtime Alaskan said, it “turned into an adventure down a dead-end road.”

When he arrived in Anchorage on Sunday, Nelson said, he went home and called a First Care Medical Center near his home in South Anchorage. He was told, he said, that a test would be no problem; all he had to do was come and get it.

So Nelson drove to the clinic.

“I walk in the door, and I got slapped on the head,” he said. People getting tested for SARS-CoV-2 are not welcome in medical facilities where they might transmit the virus to someone else – something Nelson did not know.

He retreated to his car as told and waited for First Care staff to come to him. They did, only to tell him “we can’t help you,” he said. “You’re Medicare age.”

Nelson explained he had another primary health insurance policy, but First Care told him he’d have to go get a free test at a Providence Alaska Medical Center drive-through operation on Lake Otis Boulevard in Midtown.

So Nelson drove there only to be told he couldn’t be tested unless he was sick or had a referral from a doctor. Nelson argued that it would be hard to get a doctor’s referral on a Sunday but got nowhere.

He asked if he could get a test if he was treated as a non-Medicare patient and paid the $300 a test costs.

“How about if I pay cash?” he asked. “She said, ‘absolutely not. We’re not set up for that.'”

The Providence staffer did give Nelson a handout with more information and pointed out three numbers to call in order to get an immediate test.

“None of them worked,” Nelson said.

He went home and re-quarantined figuring he’d sort things out on Monday. That proved difficult. Another phone call and visit to First Care the next day ended the same as the visit on Sunday.

“We just gave up,” he said. “We’re staying home. I’m self-quarantining there or driving a dump truck. I stay in the truck.”

He’s using the truck to help his sons with the family excavating and earth-moving business. It’s having its own problems with employees stuck in Arizona and Utah trying to get tested before heading north for Alaska.

Nelson’s biggest concern now is what could happen with many people arriving in Alaska for the summer only to find marginal testing.


Nelson and his wife are avoiding everyone, but there is no real reason to do so other than to be good citizens, he said.

“There’s no one to check on me,” Nelson said. “Nobody knows who I am or where I am or where I came from and that I’m working.”

Signs at the Ted Stevens International Airport tell people that tests or quarantine are mandatory and that people violating the rules could be fined or sent to jail, but there is no apparent enforcement or effort at enforcement.

“It’s pretty hard for somebody who cares to help the system,” Nelson said, which seems to make it too easy for someone who doesn’t care to ignore the rules, especially given that “people are desperate to get back to work.

That could spark more infections, which is what has Nelson worried.

“We’re going to be shut down again if this spikes,” he said, “and I can’t see that anybody is doing anything about it.”

Fifty-six new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the state in the last five days, according to the Alaska Corona Virus Response Hub. It is the biggest jump since mid-March in a state that looked to have the pandemic largely under control.

The possibility that cases will keep increasing could shutdown the Nelson family business, which is already wrestling with COVID-19 issues.

Employees in Utah and Arizona who are trying to get back to Alaska have been unable to get tests in those states because they are not residents, Nelson said. He’s worried that if they come north without getting tested and can’t get tested here, they could end up stuck in quarantine for 14 days.

And if a lockdown follows because of a COVID-19 outbreak?

“It’s dang frustrating because we’re trying,” he said. “We need to keep working. We want these jobs to open back up. Every job is an essential job.”

New rules

State requirements as of Saturday, according to the Department of Health and Social Services, call for new arrivals in the state to:

  • Bring with them a “negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within the last 72 hours and present results upon arrival.”
  • Or “participate in a COVID-19 PCR test when you arrive in Alaska, and self-quarantine at your expense until results arrive.”
  • Or “self-quarantine for 14 days at your expense or the duration of your trip whichever is shorter.”

Nelson believes there should be testing available at the airport.

“That’s the venturi of this thing,” he said.

Aside from some commercial fishermen who sail their boats north, a trickle of traffic on the Alaska Highway and people on ships hauling freight, almost everyone entering the state comes through the Anchorage airport.

Why the state hasn’t set up to test there or somewhere nearby baffles Nelson.

“I love the governor,” he said. “I voted for him. He’s a great guy.

“I feel bad for him because I just think the advice he is getting from the experts is not expert.

“I lay in bed with my wife at night and process this. Just give me the test. I’m willing to pay for it. Just give me the test.”

Nelson admits he’s getting a little tired of going from the house to the dump truck, locking himself in the cab, hauling dirt all day, then going back to the house to lock himself in there.

“I’m quarantined,” he said. “That’s for sure. But it’s pretty dang frustrating. I don’t get it. I volunteered for the test, and I can’t get it.”

“To do the right thing, I’m happy to pay the $300.”

The problem is that it’s impossible to do the right thing if the system stymies it.

Good to be home

Despite all of this, Nelson said, “he’s still happy to be back” in Anchorage, a sleepy city of only about 50,000 when he first saw it in 1973 that has grown into a throbbing urban area on the edge of what is still a vast wilderness.

Jewel Lake is now an integral part of the urban sprawl, not the rural area it was almost 50 years ago when a friend encountered a moose one morning on the drive to work in “town” and shot it. The Jewel Lake area then being open to hunting.

“He dragged it home behind his car,” Nelson said, “and we were eating moose steaks for a long time.”

Anchorage has changed a lot since those days, but it remains close to the free and wild Alaska spirit.

“We were held captive down in America for a couple extra months” is how Nelson described his experiences after the pandemic swept into the U.S. in March.

Early April efforts to get back ran into “unavailable flights and unavailable seats,” he said. The came a state-ordered, mandatory, 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in the state.

“We decided we might as well stay down there,” he said, but by the middle of May, Nelson was rethinking that.

“We finally said we’ve got to get up there,” he said.

It’s been a strange adventure ever since. He admitted it was a little uncomfortable getting on an airplane at his age knowing people over 60 are those most threatened by COVID-19.

“Even if it’s half full, you’re a vulnerable person,” Nelson said. Sitting close to others in an airplane knowing that many people who contract the SARS-CoV-2 turn out to be asymptomatic or don’t display symptoms to indicate they have the disease until days or weeks after they catch it is undeniably unsettling to many people.

Nelson was hoping his stress level would come down once he got home, but so far it doesn’t appear to have worked out that way.


17 replies »

  1. Is Dunleavy still playing the roulette game that doesn’t need to be played? The sooner more people get this Covid nonsense the better. What if there is no vaccine? What about next Summer?
    Shame all those thugs rioting aren’t dropping dead in the streets from Covid. I mean, they’re in the “hotspots” right?

    “Siegel also addressed that doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) said Thursday that the coronavirus appears to be declining both in virulence and in its infection rate.

    “The virus appears to be getting milder. People who are being admitted have milder symptoms. We heard the same thing out of northern Italy,” Siegel said. “And guess what? I have been hearing the same thing from many doctors here in New York City over the past week or two.”

    Siegel told Carlson his theory on why the virus may be mellowing.

    “Viruses, like anything else, want to survive. Now, I’m not sure yet that this is the case, but as viruses mutate over time, they want to get more used to the human host. They want to be able to spread more easily,” Siegel said. “And if they kill the host, they can’t spread. So they tend to mutate in the direction of becoming milder. It looks like this may be happening here.”

    • Just like with the apocalyptic climate change predictions, the Democrat has once again perpetrated more fake science through political ideology.

  2. If Mr. Nelson is out driving around for his work then he is not quarantining.

    His employer should have a protective plan and/or worker mitigation plan in place, in accordance with the health mandates, especially if they are bringing employees in from out of state and not following even basic quarantine then the employer and employee are both potentially liable.

    This is all on the honor system, and with all due respect, neither Mr. Nelson nor his employer are doing the honorable thing.

  3. Gov’t could easily have avoided these snafus by thinking through each and every scenario..

  4. Governor Dunleavy is failing the people of Alaska…miserably!
    We were first put on “lockdown”…a prison term.
    Then we were told we could not drive around our own state.
    Next came a dozen medical mandates…changing every week.
    Now we have mandatory testing for things like dental procedures and medical care.
    Someone should please inform the good governor that the lower 48 is in a revolution.
    Americans are sick and tired of fascist policies that are handed down from a central authoritarian government that is not their friend.
    Americans want our freedom back and that includes freedom of expression, freedom of medical choices, freedom of association, freedom to peaceful protest and freedom to live our lives free from an authoritarian structure.
    The China Model will not work here in America….these Covid tests are not about your safety, but are a method used for government data mining of your DNA.

  5. The PCR test for the virus has 30% false negative results. A series of PCR tests is recommended. Not only are some of the tests not FDA approved and properly validated, but the test result is dependent on the time that the sample is taken and is variable based on viral shedding and the severity of the symptoms, and the start of symptoms and/or exposure. Reports from physicians document CV-19 patients on ventilators with false negative PCR tests followed by a positive test intermittent with false negatives. In a study of a patient cluster presented on an American Association of Clinical Chemists Webinar (an organization of laboratory directors; I am a member) the first patient in the chain of exposure was asymptomatic and did not have a positive PCR test for the virus until day 18 post exposure. Patient 6 was not positive until 9 days after the onset of symptoms and 13 days post exposure. There are numerous reasons for the false PCRs due to pre-analytical and analytical factors and methods. The antibody tests are now showing false positives as well as false negatives due to a viral load below the threshold of the test. Bottom line, the tests are helpful but cannot be considered definitive. The consensus is that if the PCR is positive it is valid, but if negative, does not mean you do not have the virus. Thus, a series of PCR is recommended. But as you have pointed out the testing is not readily available and that it is problematic to get one test and worse for a series of tests. No one knows the value of the antibodies in prevention of future infections at this time. If there is a way to attach the two slides from the AACC Webinar, I would, so you can see the variability for yourselves. Let me know if there is a way to put two attachments on these posts.
    The best thing you can do is monitor your own symptoms and especially low-grade fever starting at 100.5. Keep a record of your symptoms and self-quarantine. That is what I did and my symptoms were very mild and lasted 11 days. I had a 3 person chain of exposure with the first being diagnosed with CV-19. I self-quarantined for 21 days because I wanted to be sure that I did not transmit the virus.
    I hope this helps. If you remember from previous posts, I am also board-certified (MT(ASCP) and licensed in the performance and interpretation of laboratory procedures in Louisiana as well as qualified as a laboratory Director under Federal CLIA regulations. I was the lab director of an in-house lab for 10 years at the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport for medical surveillance purposes. I am also a member of AACC which has those with tremendous expertise in these matters of laboratory testing.

  6. Meanwhile the city of Whittier just reported 10 more people who tested positive. And guess what? They were all employed in the commercial fishing industry and from out of state. Some were from Mexico.
    More and more cases are coming from the commercial fishing industry and in the case of Bristol Bay it has not even started in earnest. Watch out when it does!
    So the Governor, who I agree is well intentioned but getting bad advice, is going to have to answer to two major complaints.
    First why he has allowed the tourism industry to collapse entirely by making it difficult to almost impossible to come to Alaska and spend tourist dollars. Second, why he allowed the commercial fishing industry to avoid the rigors of a 14 day quarantine and let non resident and foreign workers work side by side next to each other and in many cases local residents, only to see a surge in virus infections.
    If these two areas of the exercise of his discretion don’t work out he will never win another election and will have a very unfavorable legacy.

    • AF,
      I fail to see any “good intentions” when the governor’s policies are directed by Dr. Zink who is a mouthpiece for Fauci and the CDC…just take a look at Dr. Zink’s twitter account (all CDC propaganda).
      These liberal bureaucrats do not care about the local economy, small business or the private sector.
      This Agenda 21 plan was rehearsed back in OCT 2019 by the John Hopkins Medical Center and coordinated with global leaders from WHO, AMA, Gates Foundation, Marriott, big tech companies and the CDC.
      Millions of Americans are protesting across the lower 48 (for over 7 days now) arm in arm and face to face….there are no large groups getting sick…Alaskans need to wake up and see the global agenda that was rolled out under the guise of Covid-19.

  7. My husband got one of the free tests here in Kethikan, mid-May. The results didnt get back to him until this week. Many people believe they have already had it, yet it seems next to imposssible to get an antibody test (blood).
    Makes it hard to make decisions.

    • Renee,
      The best decision you can make is to “unplug” from MSM sources like ADN and NPR.
      Go back to making your own decisions based on your knowledge and experience.
      There has never been a need to test healthy people before on this planet…think, why would this new strain of Coronavirus be so different from ALL of the past strains of Coronavirus?
      Our bodies were given immune systems to fight off these antigens and in 99% of the population it does just fine.

  8. But to Mr. Nelson’s point the Governor is great but…
    This would be better handled by a top-down approach, but that is not what we do well. Cheap and abundant testing would mitigate the of lack of muscle memory for following orders. No luck there. What we have going for us is sparse population. Otherwise we would be in trouble. We still could be in trouble.

    • My husband and I gambled that a short trip to (very safe) Montana could be done and return just after the proposed June 2 lifting of Alaska’s mandatory quarantine. We lost – and arrived back June 3 to quarantine and no airport testing. However, I was desperate to resume some medical care and did my own inquiries about how to receive a Covid test for the both of us. Our primary care physician called in a test order to the Providence drive- through, and within the hour we were getting our brain-tickling swabs. The paperwork we filled out allowed for out of state travel as a reason for the test. Now we wait.

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