The community of Grayling on the lower Yukon has adopted what might be the strictest measures in Alaska for protecting residents from contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
Tribal leaders are asking residents to stay home, and “remain inside as much as possible.” According to a community action plan passed by the Tribal Council, “all travel is suspended for the community of Grayling for 30 days,” including trips to nearby villages. The only exceptions are for residents with serious medical conditions.
Anyone who leaves the community should expect to not be allowed to return for 30 days. The tribal building is closed to the public, and all appointments at the clinic are by appointment only. The council also decided to set aside some hours at its store specifically for elders, and is asking all customers not to bring children into the business.
And in order to assist residents with buying enough essential food and cleaning supplies, the the tribe is giving each household $250 from an emergency fund. In a memo released Thursday and shared on social media, the council also announced that Tanana Chiefs Conference, the regional non-profit covering the lower Yukon and much of the Interior, will be distributing money to dozens of communities to help them with prevention efforts.
“TCC’s releasing a $7,500 emergency service response fund to each of our 37 federally recognized tribes to assist with the purchase of cleaning and our food supplies for members in their community,” said TCC Chief Victor Joseph.
Rural communities are at the end of Alaska’s supply chain, and are rushing to submit orders to stores in urban hubs that are already contending with bare shelves, according to Joseph. The funds will go to the tribes, who will handle purchasing the supplies they need. Joseph said it is not only Grayling that is making plans and taking steps to protect itself.
“All our tribes are talking about it, are meeting about it, to discuss how they can reduce the spread of this disease in their communities,” he said. “And rightfully so. When we look at our communities and our infrastructure, most of our homes out there don’t have running water or (a connection) to sewer. It’s easy to transmit this disease, just because we don’t have the necessary sanitation systems that could help us eliminate these kinds of diseases.”
On Thursday, phones in Grayling appeared to not be working, with repeated calls to the IRA and city offices turning up busy signals.