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Rural Alaska

Bethel plans to offer financial incentive for passengers to get airport virus test

BETHEL - City officials plan to increase the number of visitors participating in coronavirus screening tests at its airport by adding a financial incentive.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. said between 25% and 60% of passengers arriving at the Bethel airport volunteer for coronavirus testing, Alaska Public Media reported Monday.

Officials in the Southwest Alaska hub city hope to use some of the city’s $8.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to increase the percentage of passengers agreeing to airport testing to 100%.

"Whether it's a gift card, or a raffle ticket for some prize, but some kind of a financial incentive to catch people's attention to go get tested," City Manager Vincenzo Corazza said.

The testing is voluntary and an inducement with a monetary value could increase participation, Corazza said.

Bethel's city attorney has analyzed the possibility to determine that it would be an appropriate use of the federal virus funding, Corazza said.

If the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. approves the reward proposal, the city would add a booth to the testing center at the airport as soon as possible, Corazza said.

There were two positive coronavirus tests in Bethel on consecutive days last week, and officials are confident both cases stem from people who traveled to the region, the health corporation said.