Due to the huge surge in COVID-19 cases in Bethel and the region around it, the Bethel City Council passed a resolution asking people to hunker down on Oct. 27.
This action followed the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s top administrators and health care providers once again appealing to council members to take further action against the COVID-19 pandemic. YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges said that with 53 active cases in the city, Bethel definitely has widespread community transmission of the virus.
“I can't overstate the importance of taking action now in order to flatten the curve and spread these cases out so we don't overwhelm our health system,” Hodges said.
Bethel City Council members unanimously voted for the hunker down resolution. The resolution does not mandate, but it does ask all people in Bethel to stop participating in any gatherings of any size outside of their own households. Bethel businesses and organizations are being asked to close down and have employees work from home if possible.
Hodges said that restaurants in particular should shut down in-person dining and only have takeout and delivery options.
“While you're in a restaurant, it is impossible to keep your mask on the entire time as you must take it down to eat and drink. And we believe, based on the number of cases that we have in our region right now, particularly in Bethel, that this represents a risk,” Hodges said.
Bethel City Council members added a provision that will dedicate some of the city’s remaining CARES Act funds to provide economic relief for businesses that comply with the city’s request to temporarily close. Council members said that the city would need to have flexibility to provide this relief for select businesses, since some organizations would be too expensive to compensate for closing down.
YKHC said that Bethel should hunker down for at least two weeks. The resolution also asks anyone to immediately isolate if they show any symptoms of being sick. Surrounding communities and visitors are asked to limit travel into Bethel for critical personal needs and essential services. When in Bethel, visitors should isolate and prevent interaction with residents.
In addition to the hunker down resolution, Bethel City Council voted to renew its COVID-19 emergency ordinances for another 60 days. These include the city’s Declaration of Emergency, and its airport testing and facemask mandates.