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Emmonak Still On Lockdown Over Positive Coronavirus Case

Katie Basile

The lower Yukon village of Emmonak is still on lockdown nearly a week after they received word that a resident who tested positive for the coronavirus flew into the community. All travel between villages is banned.

The resident was tested at Bethel’s Alaska Airlines terminal by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, but made it into Emmonak before YKHC received the resident's test results on July 14. YKHC sent out a coronavirus response team to test community members; Mayor Wilbur Hootch said that roughly 500 people have been tested so far. Residents are required now to wear masks in public, and can only leave their houses for groceries, or for subsistence activities like fishing and berry picking.

The nearby village of Alakanuk declared a lockdown at the same time as Emmonak. Juanita Joseph is the tribal administrator.

"And we’re only 9 miles apart, so we’re like one big family unit, you know? Too close together," Joseph said.

Before the coronavirus reached that part of the lower Yukon, Emmonak, Kotlik, and Alakanuk decided that should one village have a positive case, all of them would go on lockdown together to protect each other.

"'Cause we knew if we didn’t lock down, their people would try to come over and go shopping and whatnot. So to help enforce a lockdown, we did a lockdown," Joseph said.

Joseph said that people at fish camps would be allowed in since they have been isolated while catching and cutting their fish.

According to Joseph, people requesting to travel to the village need to contact Stephanie Tom at 907-238-2151. Joseph said that Alakanuk plans to lift the lockdown order next week.