Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

COVID-19 Vaccine in Fairbanks

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital received its first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, with the first vaccination administered Thursday. Courtesy Foundation Health Partners

The Denali Borough is expanding its free COVID-19 testing program.

Beginning on Monday, testing will be available Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The testing takes place at the COVID trailer in the parking lot of the Tri-Valley Community Center.

Two emergency medical technicians are helping to make the expansion possible, according to Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker.

“We think the need is there,” he said. “If it turns out, over time, that it’s not, clinics can fill that role and then we’ll stand down.”

Currently, local clinics are busy delivering the COVID vaccine, leaving less time for COVID testing. 

“We’ve got the capacity and there’s a need,” the mayor said. “That’s why we’re doing it.”

The borough also offers on-site testing to local businesses and will now provide on-site COVID testing for school employees in the Denali Borough School District. 

The testing program is funded through federal CARES funding.

“Going forward, we are planning to seek FEMA reimbursement for COVID testing program expenses, as these are eligible expenses under the public assistance program,” wrote the mayor in this week’s report to the Denali Borough Assembly.

COVID vaccinations have begun for frontline health care workers and emergency responders. Those over age 65 can now make an appointment locally as well. Call the Interior Community Health Center at 455-4567 to make an appointment, or to get on a waiting list until additional vaccine arrives.

 

Denali Chess Club

The game of chess skyrocketed in popularity after the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” aired in 2020. That includes the Denali Borough, where chess enthusiasts recently organized the new Denali Chess Club.

The Netflix series told the story of an orphan, a chess prodigy, who took the chess world by storm during the Cold War.

“I noticed there was an increase in people interested in chess lately,” said Brent Weber Jr. He attributed that to isolation caused by COVID-19 and the Netflix series.

“It’s a great game to improve problem solving and pattern recognition,” Weber said. “So I decided to use the opportunity of increasing interest in chess to start a community chess club.”

With the help of new chess player Nicole Allard and veteran chess player Tyler Dynes, the club was born.

The new group has connected with the Alaska Chess Club and the hope is that the club can enter U.S. Chess Federation tournaments when it begins in-person events.

“We are welcoming new or experienced players and will grow as a community,” he said. “When we’re not trying to defeat each other.”

Meetings are virtual for now and the first tournament is set for Jan. 24.

“It should be a fun bi-weekly community event, that hopefully can grow to produce some official USCF players that are highly rated,” he added.

The schedule may undergo revisions in the future to include other days of the week.

 

Where’s the bus?

The Denali Borough Assembly holds its first meeting of the year tonight at 6 p.m. Tune in via Zoom. The address is listed at denaliborough.org.

Here’s a fun reason to tune in.

Every meeting, someone subtly displays the specially painted rock that looks like the “Into The Wild” bus. Denali Borough staff presented that hefty rock to Mayor Clay Walker last summer, after it was created by Cara Thurston, founder/artist of Denali Rocks. Normally, it sits on a shelf near the mayor’s desk.

But meeting after meeting, it migrates. A few months ago, I spotted it over the right shoulder of borough assembly member Jake Hill. Another month, there it was far in the background behind borough assembly member Krista Zappone. 

It’s a small thing, but sometimes when discussion drags on, it’s a fun distraction.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.