19-20 May a virtual conference was organized and hosted by the US Naval War College, the Wilson Center's Polar Institute, and the US Arctic Research Commission about the impacts of COVID-19 in the Arctic. Over two days, the conference featured a series of panels focusing on Arctic community health, economic activities, US Coast Guard Operations, scientific research, international impacts, and more.
Text: Anngelica Kristoferqvist
Peter Sköld, director of Arcum, participated as a panelist at the conference. Picture from last year's Umeå Arctic Forum.
Image Oscar Sedholm
Speakers included leading voices from Arctic communities, federal and state agencies, academia, international entities, and the private sector.
In the opening session the governor of Alaska, Mike Dunleavy, stated that Alaska this far has the lowest COVID-19 numbers in the U.S., but he also concluded that the health care infrastructure of the state is not sufficient. Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, who is a strong profile in the fight against the pandemic stressed the importance of community help aid, of geographical pin-points, and the need for testing all incoming persons. She expressed a wish that social science research will be enabled to focus on cultural change and connections as a consequence of COVID-19, and medical research must investigate immunology, the immune system response, vaccine and vulnerable groups.
Peter Sköld was invited to the panel Arctic History of Viral Epidemics and Pandemics. Discussion items included the epidemiologic effect of remoteness, population immunity status, health care infrastructures, crowded housing, age-structures, and community-based pandemic planning. The conference also addressed issues such as connectivity, tourism, research ethics, amplification of social conditions, inter-generational relationships, and marine activities.