The Iditarod checkpoint is nestled in a bend in the Iditarod River, in this aerial view Thursday, March 11, 2021, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Zachariah Hughes/Anchorage Daily News via AP, Pool)

The Iditarod checkpoint is nestled in a bend in the Iditarod River, in this aerial view Thursday, March 11, 2021, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Zachariah Hughes/Anchorage Daily News via AP, Pool)

Iditarod officials contact tracing after positive virus test

Johnson tested negative on Sunday, when he began the race.

  • By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press
  • Thursday, March 11, 2021 10:13pm
  • NewsIditarod

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

JUNEAU — A musher taken out of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after testing positive for COVID-19 at a checkpoint is believed to have been exposed by a person who had been in his quarantine bubble before the race started, a doctor working on the race said Thursday.

Dr. Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist working on the race, told reporters musher Gunnar Johnson and all other mushers tested negative on March 4 and all were also tested on Sunday, before the race start. On March 5, Johnson was in a vehicle with a person “who was part of two people in his bubble that he was quarantining with prior to the race, between his 14-day-before-the-race and his three-day-before-the-race test,” she said.

The person was exposed outside the bubble with Johnson and tested positive on March 6, she said. Johnson tested negative on Sunday, when he began the race, Guest said. It wasn’t immediately clear if officials were aware of the March 6 test result when the race started. A message seeking comment was sent to the race’s media contact.

Guest said contact tracing related to Johnson’s positive test was underway, including trying to determine the identity of two mushers who had shared a tent with him. Those unfamiliar with the race may not understand why that’s a challenge, she said. But people who are bundled up “crawl in and out” during the night and there usually isn’t much talking, she said.

Guest said the risk to others who have been on the trail “is probably at a maximum of three people.” Johnson, who tested positive outside the McGrath checkpoint on Wednesday, had not been inside any building since he left for the start of the race on Sunday, she said.

Johnson is from Duluth, Minnesota. Race officials Wednesday said he was asymptomatic. Guest said Thursday he was flown on a race plane back to Anchorage with a person who was considered fully vaccinated.

Tests on volunteers and community members who worked at a checkpoint at Nikolai returned negative, and an extra test was being added for mushers at McGrath as they head toward the finish, Guest said.

This year’s race route, modified because of the pandemic, is a loop that starts near Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage, goes to the ghost town of Iditarod and then back to Willow for the finish. Johnson’s test at McGrath on Wednesday came as he was heading toward the turnaround point.

In an effort to guard against spreading the virus, mushers are going through most rural Alaska villages that serve as checkpoints and resting instead in tent camps outside towns.

More in News

Assembly President Brent Johnson asks questions of representatives of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District during a joint work session of the School Board and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough to enter contract for asbestos flooring abatement in 3 central peninsula schools

The work will be done at Kenai Central High, Kenai Alternative High and Sterling Elementary schools

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 dead, 3 missing after boat capsizes near Seward

Alaska State Troopers were notified by the U.S. Coast Guard of an overturned vessel around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday

Kenai Central High School stands under clear skies in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough approves contract for KCHS parking lot rehabilitation

Soldotna-based Foster Construction will be awarded the bid of $648,997 to complete the project

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital to host Cancer Survivor’s Day event

The event will take place Sunday, June 2 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks to the joint Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Wednesday.
Carpenter gives wrap up on session as he nears end of House term

Carpenter is seeking election to state Senate District D

(from left to right) Jachin Sanchez, Carter Lemons, Rowan Mahoney, Adelyn McCorison and Taylor Rickard graduated from Ninilchik School on Monday, May 13, 2024 in Ninilchik, Alaska. Photo provided by Mattea Peters-Williamson
Ninilchik graduates 5 in 2024 commencement

The school held the ceremony Monday, May 13

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee adjourns

The committee will deliver recommendations to school board in July

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson points out corroded insulation outside of the school building on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 in Soldotna . (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna Elementary awaits action on approved bond

Almost two years after public OKs bond, borough asking for more time

Most Read