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Veteran Iditarod musher withdrawn from Iditarod after testing positive for COVID-19

Veteran musher Gunnar Johnson, of Duluth, Minn., travels down the trail with his dog team...
Veteran musher Gunnar Johnson, of Duluth, Minn., travels down the trail with his dog team shortly after departing the 2021 Iditarod start line at Deshka Landing.(KTUU)
Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 8:46 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Veteran musher Gunnar Johnson, bib number 11, has been withdrawn from this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after testing positive for COVID-19 at the McGrath checkpoint.

Johnson was withdrawn from the race around 3:15 p.m., according to a release from the Iditarod. Race Marshal Mark Nordman decided to withdraw the musher, after consulting with Dr. Jodie Guest, based on the race’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

Johnson, who is asymptomatic, was notified of his positive test immediately and removed from the checkpoint for isolation. He will be transported from the trail.

“Per the COVID-19 mitigation protocols, all mushers are tested for COVID-19 just outside the McGrath checkpoint using a rapid antigen test,” the release states. “Johnson was tested by a COVID-19 Team member and the rapid antigen test came back positive. Johnson was then re-tested twice using a molecular-based COVID-19 test and both results came back positive.”

Though Johnson didn’t come into close contact with race personnel or community members in McGrath, he did park his team because he was planning to rest at the checkpoint.

The Iditarod says their COVID-19 team is in the process of contact tracing and the state of Alaska has been notified.

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