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‘That’s the scary part’: Mushers react to COVID-19 protocols on the Iditarod trail

Upon arrival in the McGrath checkpoint, all mushers on the Iditarod Trail are required to take...
Upon arrival in the McGrath checkpoint, all mushers on the Iditarod Trail are required to take a rapid COVID-19 test.(KTUU)
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:27 AM AKST
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MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - Upon arrival at the McGrath checkpoint, all mushers on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are required to take a rapid COVID-19 test.

In an update Wednesday night, it was announced that veteran musher Gunnar Johnson, bib #11 had tested positive for the virus.

Speaking to mushers before the announcement was made, it was clear the COVID-19 procedures were on many of the racer’s minds.

Wade Marrs, bib number 25, said he didn’t mind spending the extra time getting tested for the best interest of those on the trail and the communities around it.

“I’d really hate to cause an issue in the village you know? Better to take one year not seeing your buddy than not being able to see them for the next 20 you know?” Marrs said.

Matt Hall, bub number 17, said he didn’t have a hard time over the Farewell Burn and other treacherous areas along the trail to McGrath. However, he felt that other veterans and rookies alike joined him in feeling pretty nervous about the test because of the possibility of it ending his race.

“Either way if you spend your entire year to be here or three years to be here, building up a new kennel to be here, and then during the race you still might get yanked it’s like that’s the scary part,” he said, “Or was the scary part.”

Jessie Royer, bib number 24, said while her strategy is looking at the next mile, she’s still thinking past the finish line.

“It’s not about this year and having a race just this year, it’s about keeping the race going for years to come and protecting the people in the villages. Because without the villages, we couldn’t have any of these races,” she said. “So it’s really just a minor inconvenience.”

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