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Iditarod outlines COVID-19 prevention plan for 2021 race

 Mitch Seavey on the trail near Elim, far in the Iditarod lead. (Tracy Sabo / KTUU)
Mitch Seavey on the trail near Elim, far in the Iditarod lead. (Tracy Sabo / KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 3:37 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Iditarod is pushing forward with a 2021 race, and released a COVID-19 prevention plan outlining what testing will look like throughout the race, the musher’s responsibilities and other details specific to COVID-19 mitigation.

“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,” Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach wrote on the race’s website.

Iditarod’s prevention plan was put together by the trail committee’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Czar Dr. Jodie Guest and a team of doctors with specialties in infectious disease and outbreak response. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also worked alongside the group according to the Iditarod.

The prevention plan includes COVID-19 testing protocols for all mushers. Mushers will need to prove a negative test 10 days before the race, have a test performed the Thursday before the race, have a rapid test performed during the ceremonial start and another rapid test performed in McGrath.

If the musher tests positive during the ceremonial start, another rapid test will be administered to rule out the chance of a false positive. If that second rapid test is negative, the musher is good to go. If it is positive, the musher cannot compete.

Similarly, in McGrath, if the rapid test returns negative they are welcome to continue racing. If positive, the musher will take their 24-hour break and be placed in isolation. Another rapid test will be administered after the day-long break. If the second rapid test returns negative they can continue racing, but if they test positive the race is over for them and they must begin an isolation plan and return to Anchorage.

The race is looking for feedback from communities across Alaska involved in the upcoming race.

“We intend to be inclusive in the ways in which we govern congregate and exist in communities during the 2021 Iditarod,” wrote Urbach.

Last year the Iditarod began before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill. The ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and the restart in Willow attracted hundreds of fans and by the time the 2020 race reached Nome, concerns surrounding COVID-19 grew and fans were encouraged not to come to watch mushers cross the finish line.

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