Keeping an Alaskan legacy safe

A masked woman wearing a blue parka stands in the snow. Behind her, a man wrangles sled dogs.

The Iditarod, already known as one of the most complicated sporting events in the world, got a lot more complicated this year due to COVID-19. Dr. Jodie Guest,vice chair of epidemiology, designed and led the protocol to manage that particular obstacle as the 2021 Iditarod COVID-19 Czar. Guest and her team tested the 400 volunteers and the mushers three times before they went on the trail and multiple times during the race. It wasn’t an easy task. COVID-19 testing equipment cannot survive Alaska’s winter temperatures, which dipped to -55 degrees during the race. Guest used hand warmers in insulated coolers to keep the equipment warm as she flew daily to the different checkpoints along the trail to perform testing. She conducted a total of 3,600 COVID-19 tests and led contact tracing and prevention measures when one musher tested positive on the trail. Guest proudly reports that single case was completely contained with no community transmission.