By the Bay: March 27, 2020

Mar 27, 2020

This week, we covered teleconferences from Dillingham to Bristol Bay Borough, as both local governments prepare for a potential spread of the coronavirus. No cases have been confirmed in Bristol Bay. Dillingham business owners shared how they are coping with closures and changes to operations. Villages around Bristol Bay are shutting down travel and school districts share updates to academic calendars. 

Tide Table Coffee stand in the Dillingham harbor. 3/27/2020
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

Listen to the full show here:

Dillingham Special Meeting

UPDATE: Dillingham Mayor Alice Ruby has vetoed the ordinance restricting non-essential trave to Dillingham for those who don't have a permit. New legislation will be considered at the April 2 meeting. This information was provided in an e-email today (3/27) from the city clerk.

At a special meeting yesterday, the Dillingham City Council passed an ordinance that essentially restricts non-essential travel to Dillingham for those who don’t have a permit from the city. That goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. tonight and lasts until May 1. 

It passed 5 to 1. The ordinance establishes an essential air travel zone around Dillingham. The council amended it to put a permit system in place. Those permits come from the city. The city manager will decide on permit applications, and if it is denied, the applicant can appeal that. At that point, the mayor will decide on the appeal, and that decision will be final. It also requires a 14-day self-quarantine for those coming to Dillingham. And the council did say that this could change as circumstances change.  In a resolution issued Tuesday, the Curyung Tribe urged the City of Dillingham to adopt an emergency order stopping non-essential travel into and out of Dillingham. The tribal council also declared a state of emergency and disaster for the tribal community. The Curyung Tribal Council obviously supported restricting travel to the community. Second Chief Gayla Hoseth said the council needed to learn from Bristol Bay’s history during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which devastated the local population.

Processors are proceeding carefully. It’s in their interest for their workers to be healthy, but they also have a lot invested in making sure the season continues.

Many say they are working on contingency plans for the season. Here’s Travis Roenfanz , a plant manager for Peter Pan Seafoods. He says they’re working on a community protection plan, including delaying their arrival to Dillingham until mid-May. 

Other people had concerns about restricting those leaving Dillingham, like teachers. There is the option to apply for a permit to travel, which was an amendment to the original resolution.  

This is a standing item on the council’s agenda, and they will be taking up this ordinance again at their meeting next Thursday.

 

 Several villages restrict travel to protect against coronavirus  The New Koliganek Village Council announced Monday night that travel into the village for non-community members is suspended until further notice. The council is asking incoming residents to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means other people in their household will have to adhere to the policy as well.  

“New Koliganek Village Council is looking after the well-being of our community.  This is to protect the safety of our people," it said in the announcement. According to the council, airlines were notified of the change.

Koliganek is the first Bristol Bay community to announce limits on travel for non-residents. The council is also prohibiting loitering at community facilities. It is allowing up to two people inside buildings at a time. If there is a case of COVID-19 in the village, all facilities will shut down and residents will be advised to stay at home.

The City of Newhalen and the Newhalen Village Council issued a joint statement announcing that there will be no travel in and out of the village until May 1. The ban went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. The decision came after the tribe and city met today to discuss concerns and measures against COVID-19. Residents returning home will be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. If the village doesn't see a case within three weeks, it could modify the restrictions. Air taxis will work with the city and tribe to screen essential personnel coming to the village who are exempt from the ban, like maintenance workers for the sewer, water and electrical systems. 

The New Stuyahok Traditional Council announced a similar travel ban Tuesday. Those in the village should only leave in the case of a medical emergency, and all residents traveling back to the community are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means that members their households will have to self-quarantine as well.

In an announcement, the tribe encouraged all residents not to visit other homes and to stay away from large gatherings.

Both communities have also banned loitering at public facilities, encouraging residents to conduct business and leave as quickly as possible. If New Stuyahok sees a case of COVID-19, the tribe says, all public facilities will be closed.    

The Igiugig Village Council has also closed travel to non-community members, with the exception of essential maintenance and health personnel. The council is also urging residents who want to return to the village to do so as soon as possible. Those who return, as well as their household members, will have to self-quarantine for 14 days. The village clinic will distribute fliers to residents on how to clean properly and avoid the virus.

In its announcement the council said, "We realize that the above recommendations will not fit every situation, and that this is an ever-changing environment," and it encouraged residents to contact the village council with any questions.

Meanwhile, the Kokhanok Village Council is requiring any person traveling to have written approval from the council. They are also requiring self-quarantine for any people entering the village.

The council is requesting that only one person enter the post office and store at a time. Kokhanok Utilities is only selling gasoline and oil, and customers must call prior to purchasing. The council also requests that people call ahead before going to the Kokhanok Clinic.

Down on the Alaska Peninsula, the Native Village of Perryville has told all air taxis and charter airlines not to transport non-residents to the village. That measure goes into effect Wednesday. Perryville residents and medical providers will be allowed to travel to health care facilities for medical reasons.

On March 20, Perryville issued a $500 powercard and 150 gallons of heating fuel to each household in order to halt traffic to the village office. 

"Please use this current power and fuel distribution efficiently and wisely, making it last," the village said in a notification, adding that residents who have outstanding bills must still pay those bills in order to receive services in the future. 

 

Bristol Bay Borough working with processors ahead of 2020 salmon fish season amid COVID-19 concerns

 

As we learn more about coronavirus in Alaska, some residents of the Bristol Bay Borough are concerned about the fast-approaching commercial fishing season, when thousands of processor workers and fishermen come to the region. At an assembly meeting this week, the borough shared the latest information from meetings with processors.

Dillingham business make adjustments ahead of a potential spread of the coronavirus 

Dillingham business owners are adjusting to shutdowns and changes to operations to reduce a potential spread of the coronavirus.

The Bristol Bay Diner and hotel are two businesses that closed last week. The diner donated fresh produce and other perishable goods to residents. Manager Tom McColloch says they’ve lost business from conferences cancelling at the hotel and other large catering events.

 

"We're suffering financially," McColloch said. "But we’re not kicking the can about it, we’re keeping our chins up and looking forward to the future and this vanishing at some point.”

McColloch said he could consider curbside services, but wants to take the proper precautions to protect the community and employees.

Tide Table Coffee also decided to close Tuesday. Three weeks prior to closing, co-owner Ian Fo and his spouse were the only two people working at the stand. They employ four workers. Fo said they want to minimize contact with people and adhere to social distancing practice.

 

"We just want people to be responsible and know that we are taking this seriously," Fo said "Hopefully, you stay safe as well.”

The closure is indefinite until things clear up. 

Bristy Larsen is a hairdresser who is self-employed. Larsen provided services for people prior to the state mandated closures of businesses where individuals are within six feet of each other. She is remaining optimistic and shared some fun advice for at home.

 

“I saw a funny meme going around that if you want to help yourself socially distance you could give yourself a haircut," Larsen said. "If you want to shave your own head or shave off your eyebrows; whatever will help you stay home.”

Larsen brought home all her equipment to sanitize. She wants to hit the ground running once services can continue.

The Dillingham Liquor Store is still open, but has made strict changes to operations. Some of the workers are considered to be high-risk for contracting the COVID-19 disease. 

They are allowing up to four people in the store at a time but they can make a line outside if that number is exceeded. Manager Gretchen Mueller wants to install a sliding window, submitted the plan to the Home, Alcohol and Marijuana control board this week.

 

“You can drive up, go to the window and make a purchase," Mueller said. "That way we don’t have close contact with everybody in our store.”

McColloch submitted a letter to the ABC board this week. It could take up to nine days to hear back. Employees are also constantly cleaning surfaces in the store and are wearing protective gloves.

Other businesses that have shutdown include the Sea Inn and Willow Tree Bars. 

If you are an employee or business owner in Bristol Bay and are affected by closures, KDLG would love to hear from you. Contact us at the station at 907-842-2200 or email news@kdlg.org. We can also be reached through Facebook, Twitter @kdlgradio and Instagram @kdlgpublicradio.

School District Updates

Nondalton School will not resume normal classes until September. In an update, the school said that staff will continue working full time to provide the best possible education to students at home. 

Gov. Dunleavy mandated last Friday that all schools in Alaska must close to students through May 1. 

Student work can be picked up Monday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m., and students can turn in completed work at that time. Teachers will also be calling to check in. 

 

The school had a few tips for helping make this new system work. They said parents could make sure work is getting picked up and turned in on time, creating a schedule at home, and having a place for kids to work. They also encouraged parents to ask for help if they needed it. 

Other students around the region will be allowed to return to school May 4. Staff with the Dillingham City School District are reporting to work today, either in person or over the phone. According to an email from the school district’s human resources department, the school still plans to provide a meal service and delivery for all students. Staff are working to develop off-site curriculum for students.

The district is requesting that staff who have returned from travel outside the state self-quarantine for 14 days before reporting to work. This also applies to people who have been in contact with those who have traveled outside of the state.

The Bristol Bay Borough is also complying with the governor’s mandate. In a Facebook post, the district said it is doing a trial run of snack and lunch deliveries today, and it’s starting homebound instruction tomorrow.

The Bristol Bay district is also working with GCI and the Bristol Bay Telephone Cooperative to find ways to increase our ability to deliver online instruction to homes. The borough says it will have updates mid-week.

Homebound packets and meal service for DLG and BBB. 

 

Exchange student from Dillingham stuck in Peru, as family tries to get her back to Alaska

Thousands of Americans are stuck in Peru, which has shut its borders to commercial flights in and out of the country. This has affected a number of Alaskans, including one student studying abroad.

 

Finally, we have a poem, from Dr. Cathy Hyndman, which she said illustrated why people should take precautions and social distance.