COVID-19 puts 3 Southwest Alaska villages into lockdown

The Johnson River bisects Kasigluk, Alaska. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

At least three Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities are in lockdown after residents tested positive for COVID-19: Quinhagak, Kipnuk and Kasigluk.


Quinhagak has entered its second week of lockdown, which began on Sept. 29. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced evidence of community spread of the coronavirus in the village this past weekend, on Oct 3. Since then, it has confirmed over 33 cases in the community, the most cases in the region outside of Bethel.


Kipnuk entered a two-week lockdown on Oct. 2 after a resident tested positive for the virus. Kipnuk Tribal Administrator Nicholai Slim said that this week he’d talked with the woman who tested positive.

“She said she wasn’t feeling sick, which is good,” Slim said. “Her family is watching her closely.”

The Kipnuk lockdown has closed the tribal office to the public, and the school has moved to remote learning. The village’s only church, which is Moravian, is closed. The store is only accepting phone orders, and the tribal council is asking residents to stay home as much as possible and not to visit with others. “It’s not very pleasant to be limited,” Slim said, “not being able to associate with friends and relatives. It makes everyone feel locked in.”


The same day Kipnuk entered a lockdown, Kasigluk went into another one. Kasigluk had been in lockdown previously because its neighboring community, Nunapitchuk, had also gone into lockdown.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation said that a Kasigluk resident tested positive for the virus on Oct. 2 elsewhere in Alaska but had been in the village during their infectious period.

Kasigluk Akiuk School Principal George Gladish said that the lockdown began after school let out that day. This week the school returned to remote learning. The school just finished its first week of in-person classes this semester.

The Kasigluk Tribal Council is prohibiting inter-village travel and requiring all travel outside Kasigluk to be approved by the tribal council. Each household is asked to designate two people to run errands for the home.


Nunapitchuk ended its lockdown on Sept. 25. YKHC confirmed community spread of the coronavirus there earlier that month. As of Oct. 7, Nunapitchuk Tribal Administrator Tom Neck said that YKHC had not confirmed a new case in two weeks. The Nunapitchuk school has been in remote learning mode the entire semester, and will continue remote learning until at least Oct. 19.

In Nunapitchuk, travel has been limited. Residents require tribal council permission to travel to Bethel or any larger cities. Anyone traveling into the village must quarantine for two weeks and the tribe’s “quarantine workers” will run errands for them.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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