Iditarod mushes on; fans being urged to skip finish in Nome

Linwood Fiedler mushes across Submarine Lake near Nikolai, Alaska, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Loren Holmes
Linwood Fiedler mushes across Submarine Lake near Nikolai, Alaska, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Loren Holmes (© Anchorage Daily News)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – As Iditarod mushers drove their dog teams across Alaska on Saturday, race officials scrambled to make last minute changes prompted by concerns over the new coronavirus, including asking fans not to fly to Nome for the finish.

Officials late Friday night urged race fans, especially those from out of state, to skip the finish this week. City officials in Nome followed most other Alaska cities in closing or limiting access to most public buildings in wake of the state’s first positive test, that of a man from outside the United States. The man was tested Thursday at an Anchorage hospital after earlier arriving in the city on a private cargo plane.

“The Iditarod fully appreciates and is humbled by the passion and social energy of the Iditarod nation; however, we are asking you to not make any nonessential travel to the Nome finish, in particular, those who are traveling from outside of Alaska,” according to a statement from the Iditarod.

Race officials are also paring down their own staff to only essential personnel needed in Nome for the finish. That list is limited to veterinarians, necessary dog handlers and staff needed for communications and to coordinate logistics.

The Iditarod had previously postponed post-race events in Nome, including the musher’s banquet and an annual meet-and-greet with mushers.

Race Marshal Mark Nordman told the Anchorage Daily News that he didn’t know how a race like the Iditarod could be canceled, but said continuing the race was being done under the guidance of state officials.

“If the state of Alaska said the race must stop, we’d stop," Nordman told the newspaper. "We have not heard that.”

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 80,000 people in China have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. More than 65,000 have recovered.