Andrey N. Petrov, Sweta Tiwari, Michele Devlin, Mark Welford, Nikolay Golosov, John DeGroote, Tatiana Degai & Stanislav Ksenofontov

Since February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been unfolding in the Arctic, placing many communities at risk due to their remoteness, limited healthcare options, underlying health issues, and other compounding factors. This paper assimilates diverse sources of COVID-19 data in the Arctic from 2020-2022 and provides a preliminary analysis at the regional (subnational) level. The results suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic outcomes to date (infections, mortality, and case-fatality ratios) were highly variable, but mortality generally remained below respective national levels. The Arctic has persevered through COVID-19 with less dire consequences despite the region’s pre-existing vulnerabilities. Based on the varying trends and magnitude of the pandemic, we classify Arctic regions into several groups. 

As of October 1, 2022, the Arctic has experienced about 2.4 million confirmed cases and over 29,000 deaths from COVID-19. These outcomes are not uniform across the Arctic region and are greatly influenced by Northern Russia, given its sizable Arctic populations. Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Northern Canada, and Northern Norway reported just under 60 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population, while Alaska, Northern Russia, and Northern Sweden had over 180 deaths per 100,000. This study summarizes the COVID-19 epidemiological outcomes in the Arctic by its regions from February 2020 to October 2022, with a goal of shedding more light on the factors that determine the pandemic’s spatiotemporal dynamics in the Arctic. The COVID-19 epidemiological variability across the Arctic, to a large extent, is explained by geographical isolation, the effectiveness of COVID-19 public health prevention measures, the nature of the health care system, and varying vaccination rates, among other reasons.

Lessons learned by examining the patterns of COVID-19 spread and pandemic outcomes, such as mortality and morbidity their relationships with underlying public health conditions and healthcare resources, as well as socioeconomic characteristics, prevention and mitigation policies, and experiences of the Indigenous Peoples can inform responses to current and future pandemics.

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Jennifer Spence & Sai Sneha Venkata Krishnan

The Arctic region faces unique risks and challenges as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the actions taken to respond to it. Arctic communities have distinct health, social and economic needs and circumstances that were more pronounced during this pandemic. Research offers an important opportunity to understand the region’s unique conditions and characteristics for pandemic management. Only by systematically examining its impacts can public officials, community leaders, medical professionals and other decision-makers have the knowledge needed to decrease further harm due to COVID-19 and leverage this opportunity to support the resilience of Arctic communities. This article contributes to this knowledge building effort by surveying the literature (peer reviewed and grey) that explicitly focuses on COVID-19 in the Arctic between 2020 and 2022. We analyze this emerging body of work with a focus on identifying overarching trends (time, countries studied, scale of analysis, specific populations). We also map the themes and topics considered in this literature with a focus on highlighting topics that are prominent and those that are conspicuously underrepresented. This analysis seeks to inform our understanding of, and response to, the pandemic and other global shocks in the short-, medium- and longer-term.

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Robyn Long, Selma Ford, and John Crump

This paper examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has simultaneously heightened the vulnerability of Inuit communities as well as amplified collective resilience. First, we address the intersection of existing challenges to Inuit health, well-being, and social and cultural environments with the pandemic. By situating these issues within the long-standing inequities facing Inuit communities, we discuss how the pandemic has exacerbated negative outcomes at the individual, community and cultural levels. We then outline themes of Inuit-led responses to enhance collective well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Particular attention is given to responses that address overlapping issues, for example, mental health, infrastructure, and food security. We draw upon a variety of sources of information to highlight culturally grounded responses, including Inuit government agencies and corporations, nonprofit organizations, news outlets, interviews with community leaders, and partners of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. The examples provided exemplify pathways that Inuit institutions and organizations draw upon for organizing and sharing resources. Thereafter we discuss how amplifying Inuit ingenuity does not minimize the ongoing impact of social and political inequities, but rather underscores the evolving ability of Inuit institutions to respond to wide-scale social and health challenges. In conclusion, we provide insights and policy recommendations that advance Inuit communities’ management and responses to pandemics.

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Laura F. Goodfield, Anissa S. Ozbek, Riya Bhushan, Sophie M. Rosenthal, Alicia Glassman & Marya Rozanova-Smith

The Arctic has historically been vulnerable when met with emergencies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. The geographic remoteness of many Arctic communities, along with insufficient social infrastructures, elevates the importance of nuanced subnational and local regulations for this region. In focusing on gendered policy responses to the pandemic, this paper examines Alaska's legislation and administrative measures through a gender lens, focusing on one of its at-risk demographics: women.

With analysis of Alaska's policy compendiums, the paper provides a classification of policies by their responsiveness to women's needs. Through the prism of the United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Women's methodology and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s holistic wellness framework, this study seeks to improve understanding and informed decision-making to better reflect and address women's needs in crisis and recovery from a holistic perspective.

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Taylor P. van Doren, Ryan A. Brown & Ron Heintz

Pandemics are recurring events through human history, so it is valuable to analyze and compare determinants, impacts, and consequences of different pandemics. Anthropological perspectives of pandemics recognize that modern population health is the product of biocultural evolution that is driven by human relationships with infectious pathogens that play out differently in locales with different cultural, environmental, and biological ecologies. Health and pandemic experiences in the Arctic are expected to be distinct from those of other regions of the world and should be closely investigated to better understand the dynamics and consequences of pandemics therein. In this paper, we focus on Alaska and its unique experiences with the 1918 influenza pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. Through review of these two pandemics, we show that there are similarities across time, such as how coastal communities were hit hardest and interior communities were more likely to escape, and that Alaska Native communities’ ability to maintain agency over their community-centered responses resulted in better protection against novel outbreaks. Additionally, we characterize the ambient social conditions during each pandemic to explore critical relationships between biology, culture, behavior, and health. Finally, in an application of biocultural theory to pandemics, we review and engage with the emerging literature on the impacts of delayed healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic and theorize about potential population health consequences of delayed care during COVID-19 in Alaska. Current data for Southeast Alaska show that the majority of people in the region experienced delays in healthcare in 2020-21, but more research is required to identify determinants of this phenomenon. Finally, we discuss how a biocultural perspective can help us understand the dynamics of pandemics and can help tailor pandemic preparedness plans that are appropriate for local social and cultural ecologies.

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Council of Yukon First Nations, Math’ieya Alatini, Kari Johnston, Alison Perrin, Rhiannon Klein, Kiri Staples & Kristeen McTavish

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to Yukon First Nations (YFN) in relation to intergovernmental collaboration, including coordination of health services, emergency measures communication, and access to health data. These challenges are in part related to the complex landscape of relationships between multiple governing authorities in the territory. The Yukon is one of three territories in northern Canada and is home to 14 YFNs, 11 of which are modern treaty holders. YFN modern treaties recognize and present the opportunity for collaboration between governing authorities, specifically YFN governments, the Government of Yukon (YG), and the Government of Canada. However, nation-to-nation collaboration involving both treaty and non-treaty nations must be sought.

YG is primarily responsible for health-care program and service delivery for all Yukoners, inclusive of Indigenous populations, as well as administering Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA). We sought to better understand the intergovernmental dynamics that were at play during the COVID-19 response in the Yukon and identify lessons learned for interjurisdictional emergency and pandemic response. We conducted qualitative Intra-Action Reviews with YFN, territorial, and municipal government representatives involved in the pandemic response. Our preliminary analysis highlights challenges and lessons learned related to YFN self-determination in emergency planning, critical challenges faced by rural and YFN communities in emergency response, and lessons for future pandemic planning and public health strategies in the Yukon. These findings confirm key gaps and priorities that have been identified by others, provide context-specific elaboration and examples, and identify additional opportunities to be explored.

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