Clay Walker talks to class

Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker talks with sixth-graders about what it’s like to be the mayor back in January 2020. 

Covid-19 is real, and it hits hard. That was the personal experience of Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker, who is recovering this week from the final stages of Covid.

He shared his journey battling the Delta variant during a Wednesday night Zoom meeting with the Denali Borough Assembly.

The borough office closed last week when a staff member tested positive.

“The index case from last week was me,” he told assembly members. “It spreads incredibly easily, and I don’t know where I picked it up.”

He went to work the morning of Aug. 30 as usual, even though he felt a cold coming on.

“I let staff members know right away I might cut out early,” he said.

On the drive home, he stopped at Canyon Clinic to get tested.

“I was floored when at Canyon Clinic the test came back positive,” he said.

He immediately went into isolation at a small cabin on his property, and started the process of contact tracing, informing everyone he had been around for the previous 48 hours.

“It hit pretty hard, actually,” he said. “I’m vaccinated. I was pretty darn sick on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Symptoms included incredible fatigue and body aches, he said.

On Wednesday, he felt congestion moving into his lungs so he called his doctor, who recommended he come to Fairbanks for an antibody infusion. He drove himself to Fairbanks for the procedure.

“One of the attributes of the infusion is it can reduce the time of the sickness,” he said. “I bounced back quickly. By the weekend, I felt really just fine. I credit my level of protection from vaccination and infusion for my speedy recovery.”

Without those protections, “I do think I would have been in the hospital, frankly,” he said.

“I am so thankful there was no transmission in my workplace or in my family,” the mayor said. “It turned out as well as it could have. But I did get pretty sick. I didn’t end up in the hospital, so I’m real grateful for that.”

Local Covid cases are the highest they have been during the course of the pandemic, he noted. Although many people have tested positive even though they are vaccinated, those people are far less likely to need hospitalization, he said. He encouraged everyone to do everything they can to avoid hospital care.

“That means being extra careful in fall activities and protecting yourself from Covid through vaccination,” he wrote in his mayor’s report.

The mayor also encouraged everyone to “thank a health care worker.”

“We have a dedicated group of providers here in the borough who have been working very hard to meet the increasing need,” he wrote. “They deserve our gratitude.”

At last report, 71% of Denali Borough residents have had at least one vaccination shot.

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