Joining villages across the state, Bristol Bay communities restrict travel to stem disease spread

A view from Newhalen March 17 2019/Isabelle Ross

Newhalen, New Stuyahok, Igiugig and Perryville have suspended travel to non-community members until further notice in an effort to protect against the coronavirus.

The City of Newhalen and the Newhalen Village Council issued a joint statement announcing that there will be no travel in and out of the village until May 1. The ban went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. The decision came after the tribe and city met today to discuss concerns and measures against COVID-19. Residents returning home will be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

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If the village doesn’t see a case within three weeks, it could modify the restrictions. Air taxis will work with the city and tribe to screen essential personnel coming to the village who are exempt from the ban, like maintenance workers for the sewer, water and electrical systems. 

The statement also lists Nilavena Clinic providers as essential, saying that they will need to get medical supplies in and out of the Newhalen-Iliamna area. However, those medical providers will need to complete a two-week quarantine before traveling to the community. 

The New Stuyahok Traditional Council announced a similar travel ban Tuesday. Those in the village should only leave in the case of a medical emergency, and all residents traveling back to the community are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means that members of their households will have to self-quarantine as well. In an announcement, the tribe encouraged all residents not to visit other homes and to stay away from large gatherings.

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Both communities have also banned loitering at public facilities, encouraging residents to conduct business and leave as quickly as possible. If New Stuyahok sees a case of COVID-19, the tribe says, all public facilities will be closed.    

The Igiugig Village Council has also closed travel to non-community members, with the exception of essential maintenance and health personnel. The council is also urging residents who want to return to the village to do so as soon as possible. Those who return, as well as their household members, will have to self-quarantine for 14 days. The village clinic will distribute fliers to residents on how to clean properly and avoid the virus.

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In its announcement the council said, “We realize that the above recommendations will not fit every situation, and that this is an ever-changing environment,” and it encouraged residents to contact the village council with any questions.

Down on the Alaska Peninsula, the Native Village of Perryville has told all air taxis and charter airlines not to transport non-residents to the village. That measure goes into effect today. Perryville residents and medical providers will be allowed to travel to health care facilities for medical reasons.

On March 20, Perryville issued a $500 powercard and 150 gallons of heating fuel to each household in order to halt traffic to the village office. 

“Please use this current power and fuel distribution efficiently and wisely, making it last,” the village said in a notification, adding that residents who have outstanding bills must still pay those bills in order to receive services in the future. 

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