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Rural Alaska

At least 3 Southwest Alaska villages go into lockdown as coronavirus spreads

The gravel road is busy in July 2016 with walkers, bikers and often four-wheelers in the Southwestern Alaska village of Quinhagak. (Lisa Demer / ADN)

BETHEL - At least three villages in Southwest Alaska are under lockdown after residents tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

Quinhagak, Kipnuk and Kasigluk in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta have been closed because of COVID-19 infections, KYUK-AM reported Thursday.

Quinhagak is in the second week of a lockdown that began Sept. 29.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced evidence of community virus spread in Quinhagak Oct. 3 and more than 33 cases have since been confirmed in the community, the most in the region located outside of Bethel.

Kipnuk began a two-week lockdown Oct. 2 after a resident tested positive. The community closed the tribal office, while the school switched to remote learning. The village’s church is closed and its store only accepts phone orders.

The tribal council asked residents to remain at home and avoid visits with others.

“Not being able to associate with friends and relatives. It makes everyone feel locked in,” Kipnuk Tribal Administrator Nicholai Slim said.

One the same day Kipnuck enacted restrictions, Kasigluk began its second lockdown.

The health corporation said a Kasigluk resident tested positive for the virus Oct. 2 elsewhere in Alaska, but was in the village during the infectious period.

Kasigluk Akiuk School Principal George Gladish said the school returned to remote learning after finishing its first week of in-person classes.

The Kasigluk Tribal Council prohibited inter-village travel and required tribal council approval for travel outside the community. Households have designated two people to run errands.

Kasigluk was previously under restriction because of a lockdown in its neighboring community, Nunapitchuk. That lockdown was lifted Sept. 25.

Nunapitchuk Tribal Administrator Tom Neck said the health corporation had not confirmed a new case in two weeks as of Oct. 7.

Although officials lifted the lockdown, Nunapitchuk residents must obtain tribal council permission to travel. Inside the village, visitors must quarantine for two weeks and designated tribal “quarantine workers” run errands.