Coronavirus-positive racer removed from Iditarod race


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A veteran Iditarod musher was removed from the race Wednesday after he tested positive for the coronavirus, organizers said.

Gunnar Johnson, 52, of Duluth, Minnesota, was withdrawn from the event at the McGrath, Alaska, checkpoint, the organizers said in a news release.

Iditarod Race Marshal Mark Nordman, working with epidemiologist Dr. Jodie Guest, made the decision to remove Johnson, who is asymptomatic, based on the rules set in the race’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

Johnson is incredibly disappointed and felt his dog team looked great, the organizers said. Johnson had 14 dogs racing with him.

After the positive test, Johnson was removed from the checkpoint area and taken off the trail, the organizers said.

Johnson, the former city attorney of Duluth who was participating in his third Iditarod, did not come into close contact with race personnel or community members, and he did not enter any buildings or community spaces in McGrath, the organizers said.

The Iditarod normally goes from the Anchorage area to Nome. But because of the pandemic, mushers are traveling in a loop from Willow, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Anchorage, to the ghost town of Iditarod, and then back to Willow for the finish. To avoid spreading COVID-19, mushers are breezing through most rural Alaska villages that serve as checkpoints, and they are instead resting in tent camps outside towns.

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