Iditarod adjusts race to allay concerns about novel coronavirus

Published: Mar. 14, 2020 at 3:12 PM AKDT
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The concern over the novel coronavirus outbreak has reached the Iditarod, and over the past 24 hours, race officials have worked to make changes to ensure safety at checkpoints along the trail.

The Unalakleet checkpoint will be limited to a team of Iditarod veterinarians, logistics, communications coordinators and dog handlers.

“They’ve decided they don’t need extra people in the checkpoint itself,” explained Iditarod’s Rob Johnson, who’s spent the past 11 races at the Unalakleet checkpoint. “Only people that can come in today are the actual workers at the checkpoint.”

Other checkpoints like Shaktoolik have taken precautions a step further due to COVID-19, and supplies have been moved two miles outside of town, which means it will be a unmanned checkpoint for the 2020 race.

“There was a concern within the community, of course worldwide everybody is talking about it,” said Iditarod Race Marshall Mark Nordman on Friday. “They have asked us to move the checkpoint just outside of Shaktoolik.”

In Nome, all city-sponsored events have been canceled and Iditarod events postponed.

Veteran musher and Nome resident Aaron Burmeister learned of the changes while sharing Jessie Royer’s First to the Yukon 5-course meal in Ruby.

“I’m shocked,” Burmeister told KTUU during his meal.

The news hits close to home for Burmeister knowing how much the Iditarod means to Nome.

“It’s not just a celebration, it’s the craft fairs, and it’s everything else that takes place,” Burmeister said.

While coronavirus concerns have reached the trail, the race to Nome continues.

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