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Why masks are once again required at Bethel schools, but not at the fitness center

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Elyssa Loughlin
/
KYUK
The goal is to keep COVID-19 out of the schools.

Starting April 18, the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) will start requiring students and staff in Bethel and Nunapitchuk to wear masks. That’s because the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) has added these communities to the list of places experiencing high rates of COVID-19 transmission.

YKHC considers the wider Bethel region to be at medium risk of transmission. However, it still considers the city itself at high risk of transmission.

You won't find that information on its website though. YKHC used to publish transmission risk assessments for specific communities on its website. It’s no longer doing that, but it still tracks that risk internally and consults with LKSD each week to let them know which of their communities have high rates of transmission. The goal is to keep COVID-19 out of the schools.

The district requires all of its students and staff to wear masks if they’re in a community with a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. Bethel and Nunapitchuk have been newly designated as high risk. Several other LKSD schools have been considered high risk for the past month, and also have mask mandates. That list includes Kipnuk, Kwethluk, Kwigillingok, Nightmute, Nunapitchuk, and Tuntutuliak.

Students and staff in these communities must wear their masks during the school day, on school buses, and during all school activities except for vigorous sports. For Bethel and Nunapitchuk, this rule goes into effect on April 18.

While YKHC consults with LKSD to let them know Bethel is considered high risk, it does not do the same with the City of Bethel. That means that the city-owned fitness center is still operating under the regional medium risk status and does not require masks.

Olivia Ebertz is a News Reporter for KYUK. She also works as a documentary filmmaker. She enjoys learning languages, making carbs, and watching movies.
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