Rural Alaska

COVID-19 cases in Western Alaska village prompt community lockdown

The Western Alaska village of Stebbins is in lockdown following a COVID-19 outbreak there that grew to 43 active cases by Wednesday.

The lockdown was announced Tuesday in a statement from the regional Norton Sound Health Corp., and began last week.

“Lockdown” means no visiting between households or other communities, a requirement that residents wear masks in indoor public spaces, and a capacity limit of 10 people at a time in the local store and five people at the laundromat. There is also a 10 p.m. curfew

There is also a 10 p.m. curfew, and “there will be no bingo at this time,” the statement said.

Unvaccinated residents are also being advised to “immediately” go to the local clinic to receive their first dose.

According to Alaska’s vaccine dashboard, the Nome Census Area has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, with 64% of its total population having received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Wednesday.

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In Stebbins, an Inupiaq and Yup’ik village with a population of just under 700 people, about 42% of the whole community is fully vaccinated, according to Alexis Erikson, a spokesperson with the Norton Sound Health Corp.

A COVID-19 outbreak in Stebbins last fall that started in September and ended in November “took nearly two months to recover from,” the statement from the health corporation said. Sixty-five residents were infected during that outbreak and none died.

The last time a community in the region reported a full lockdown was in January in Brevig Mission, though some villages have experienced cases and partial closures more recently, according to Norton Sound Health Corporation.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman covers health care for the Anchorage Daily News. She's a fellow with Report for America, and is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A veteran of AmeriCorps and Vista volunteer programs, she's previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in the Bay Area.