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Rural Alaska

St. Lawrence Island village of Gambell contending with COVID-19 outbreak

The village of Gambell is on the western end of St. Lawrence Island. Photographed on April 19, 2017. (Marc Lester / ADN archive)

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The St. Lawrence Island community of Gambell is contending with a coronavirus outbreak that’s prompted a curfew and hunker-down orders.

Gambell sits about 36 miles from Siberia and 200 miles southwest of Nome in the Bering Sea. About 700 people live there.

The outbreak began last month after six people in one household tested positive, tribal health officials say.

The City of Gambell is enforcing a village-wide curfew, according to a statement from Norton Sound Health Corp. Local leaders are asking all members of the community to “hunker down” and only leave their homes when necessary, such as for medical needs or to shop at grocery stores, and to wear masks in public places.

An NSHC spokeswoman did not return a request for more information. The organization is coordinating the response in Gambell with state epidemiologists, public health nurses and Sivuqaq tribal leaders.

State health officials at a media briefing Thursday described an ongoing effort to provide housing for COVID-19-positive residents who need to isolate from others. Health officials are using former Bureau of Indian Affairs School housing, local officials say.

The outbreak began with six people in the same household after one resident tested positive Sept. 18 and the other five tested positive the next day, health officials say. They were all isolating.

The new cases are a result of community spread, officials say. Close contacts who initially tested negative will be retested seven to 14 days after the first test.

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