Even in cities with big hospitals, the novel coronavirus is testing the limits of the modern health care system. But fighting the virus in rural Alaska presents additional challenges: Some of Alaska’s remote villages can be 100 miles from the nearest hospital, and many are disconnected from the road system and only reachable by plane.
That isolation could make treatment more challenging, and epidemic disease has devastated rural Alaska before. But the remoteness of many of Alaska’s villages can also be an advantage, making it easier to control people moving in and out and to quarantine or isolate them if necessary.
“There’s potential for this to be contained and not to be catastrophic in rural Alaska. But if it’s mismanaged, it could be considerably worse,” said Kevin Berry, a University of Alaska Anchorage economist who’s studied epidemic disease and response.