By the Bay: March 20, 2020

Mar 20, 2020

We are practicing social distancing while working to keep everyone up to date on the coronavirus. Alaska is now up to 12 cases. People from Bristol Bay have been tested, but the results are pending.

The playground at Bristol Bay Native Association. Friday, March 20, 2020. Head Start, along with school districts around the region, has had to adapt to restrictions to protect people from coronavirus.
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

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Health organizations around Alaska have been modifying and adapting their normal practices to prepare for the coronavirus in communities. The Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation is restructuring its operations to prepare the region for coronavirus.

Here's Dr. Cathy Hyndman's advice on how to take care of Elders and help everyone stay healthy.

The Dillingham City Council adopted a resolution declaring a public health disaster emergency at its meeting last night. They also approved administrative leave for the epidemic. 

The council met via Zoom — a program that lets people video conference into a virtual platform.

Mayor Alice Ruby called for a formalized emergency operations plan. City Manager Tod Larson says he is going to formalize a working group, and is taking comments from last night’s meeting and creating that plan, which is subject to change as the situation changes.

A major concern at the meeting was the availability of testing — especially in light of the upcoming fishing season. At the meeting Dr. Hyndman said there were just not that many test kits statewide. One of the issues is that the test kits require a certain type of viral media; the state lab in Fairbanks is working to develop that media. 

There were questions about administrative leave for those who are currently not able to go to work, an Elders-first plan to prioritize care for Elders, and plans to help people struggling with food security. Mayor Ruby said the city was talking to the grocery stores, as well as service providers like the school and senior center, to check in with people. 

Dillingham City School District Superintendent Jason Johnson said that staff and student safety were the district’s priorities. Here’s what he said at the meeting: 

 


Johnson also talked through the district's meal service plan for kids in the district.

 


The city has closed several entities around town, including the senior center. The senior center will be preparing lunches for seniors next week and dropping them off to seniors. 

The EMS, fire department and public safety will all remain open, as will the landfill and the port and harbor. 

Larson said he held a conference call yesterday with three processors — Northline, Icicle and Peter Pan. All processors are planning on coming to the region for the upcoming season, and are working to develop safe practices. Here’s what Larson said:

 


With Head Start programs across the state shutting down, over 3,000 kids are not receiving any in class services. The Bristol Bay Native Association’s Head Start program is taking precautions due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus

Meanwhile, the Dillingham City School District is furthering its extension of spring break to April 13, along with all activities at the school.

The school district will be providing a meal service and delivery for all students. School staff are also working on developing “off-site curriculum” for students. There will be another update from the district on March 25.

The Bristol Bay Borough is also extending spring break by one week, complying with the state’s shutdown of education through March 30. On Facebook, the borough said staff would be returning Monday to work on a plan to deliver basic instruction to students through homebound packets and if possible online activities. The district will also be delivering food to students who rely on the breakfast and lunch programs, and they will also continue the Elder lunch program in coordination with BBNA's Elder Services. And they are also deep cleaning the entire school.

It is also possible that the break could get extended. The borough also said that the situation was changing, so community members should stay tuned for additional information and updates.

 

The 2020 basketball season came to an abrupt end for the Dillingham Lady Wolverines when the Alaska School Activities Association canceled this year’s state basketball tournament.

The Lady Wolverines’ final games were played in Anchorage last week in the Great Alaska Conference. We hear about the sudden end to their season, and what playing with the team has meant to one senior.

 

The Lady Wolverines championship pose at Hooper Bay, Bering Sea Bash.
Credit Courtesy of Lindsay Layland
 

Store supplies of certain products have run low statewide because of people stocking up in the wake of coronavirus concerns. In Bristol Bay, several grocery stores are preparing to offset the wave of product shortages in their communities. Read that report here.

 


To round out our show today, here’s a fun bleach cleansing recipe from Dr. Hyndman — an easy thing to clean and disinfect around the house. 

 


In light of the developing situations, for the next few weeks we’re going to be starting our local hosting a little later to allow more time for bringing you the stories and updates from around the region. 

We’ll be waking you all up each morning with the weather at 7:30 a.m. And of course we’ll still have Morning Edition and statewide news, and our morning newscasts at 8:19. 

 

Before you go, hear some thoughts on wellbeing from KDLG's Tyler Thompson.