By the Bay: May 8, 2020

May 8, 2020

The Dillingham City Council voted Friday to require testing at the end of a 14-day quarantine in Dillingham, effective May 22, as well as a series of protective measures in the community which are effective immediately. We also parse through the trial and acquittal of Brian Vane Clark, who was arrested in 2016 for the murder of Ella Olsen. Clark was found not guilty by an Anchorage jury in March. 

The Togiak herring district. Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

UpdateDiscussion about the Dillingham City Council ordinances below reflects the votes taken at Friday's meeting

The Dillingham City Council voted on four ordinances addressing COVID-19 safety measures at its meeting Friday. Among the actions taken it is requiring a 14-day quarantine and testing for incomers at the end of that quarantine. That goes into effect May 22.

People are also now required to wear masks in public places, social distance whenever possible, and businesses must comply with current hygiene requirements, effective immediately. 

Listen to the full show here (recorded before the Dillingham City Council meeting Friday evening):

The Dillingham City Council tackled four ordinances on COVID-19 measures at its meeting Friday. 

The council voted to continue the 14-day quarantine requirement. On May 22, incomers will be required to get tested after 13 days to come out of quarantine. That means if they are quarantining in Dillingham, that person must take a COVID-19 test on the 13th day of quarantine, and the test result must be negative in order for them to come out of quarantine. If the test comes back positive, that person will be placed in isolation until a test comes back negative or they leave the community. 

Before that date, there's an option to get tested and potentially shorten the quarantine. The person would have to have two negative COVID-19 tests at least 10 days apart, with at least one taken in Dillingham. If someone tests positive, they must immediately self-isolate and monitor themselves for signs of sickness. That's effective Monday, May 11 at 11:59 p.m. 

Another ordinance the council passed aims to increase protective measures around the community. It requires face masks in public places like grocery stores, reminds people to practice social distancing, including on boats and vessels whenever possible, and implements hygiene standards for businesses and vessel owners. That ordinance is effective immediately. Violation of those regulations are considered a minor offense. Citations will be waived if the violator pays $100 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and $1000 for all subsequent violations. 

A third ordinance prohibit anyone from using city facilities unless they have quarantined for 14 days, obtained a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in the community, or are using city facilities to leave Dillingham. Violating that would result in up to 10 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for an individual, or a $10,000 fine and confiscation of property used for an organization.

The city is not designating any boat yard as a quarantine area. Acceptable quarantine locations, according to the ordinance, include a commercial fishing vessel, but only as long as not more than three people are quarantining on the vessel. Other locations include at a Dillingham residence, a site provided by their employer and identified in a protection plan, or a facility maintained by the city. It also includes set net encampments and connexes. 

The council rejected a fourth ordinance that would have established a “fisheries related used district”, where only people who are quarantining in that area and are involved in commercial fishing could enter and work in the district.

Complicating matters is a hold up over CARES Act funding — it’s unclear whether the legislature has to reconvene to approve nearly 1 billion dollars in funds statewide for the governor to distribute. That will be addressed at a Legislative Budget and Audit committee meeting on Monday. But that’s holding up funding from getting distributed to communities like Dillingham.

There are also ongoing discussions about where to set up testing for fishermen. Suggestions include the harbor and the airport in Dillingham, or requiring that incoming travelers get tested directly before arriving in the community.

The Bristol Bay Borough assembly passed a series of ordinances at its meeting May 4 aimed at protecting against an outbreak of the virus in the community. The rules are in effect until June 30, and the assembly will review it at their June 1 meeting. The assembly is still working on the details of its travel declaration. Every traveler to the borough must fill out a travel declaration form at least two hours before arriving, to be submitted to the crew or captain of the vessel on which they are arriving, or the borough representative meeting them upon arrival in the borough.

Part of that includes borough personnel designated to meet planes when they arrive in King Salmon and obtain completed declarations from the passengers. The borough is hiring part time workers for the Alaska Airlines Jet, while the police department will handle smaller charters.

Fishermen must submit a travel plan or the protocol that their business submitted to the state, as per health mandate 10 or 12. They have to include their quarantine plan, have no symptoms 48 hours prior to arrival, and obtain a screening once they arrive, if the borough requests it and screening is available. They must also wear face coverings when outside their personal lodgings.

Bristol Bay Borough Mayor Dan O’Hara met with the Naknek Native Village Council, the King Salmon Tribe, and the South Naknek Village Council this week. Manager Gregg Brelsford, Assembly member Eddie Clark and Clinic Director Mary Swain with the Camai Health Center were also on the call.

Swain did not release how many tests are currently available, but according to the Bristol Bay Borough’s website, she said that at least 30,000 tests would be available for the summer fishing season. KDLG has not yet independently confirmed that number . According to Swain, the Camai clinic has administered about 150 tests locally within the last two days. The Tribes agreed to meet again next Tuesday to address future concerns and stay updated on the borough’s progress.

Swain has also secured three additional facilities to mitigate Covid-19 risks to the community. Two facilities are for monitoring people in isolation and medical quarantine, and one is a contained trauma emergency room. Those are expected to be operational by the end of May. The borough and public works department will identify and prepare sites for those facilities. They are also working to prepare the community pool as a testing site. Camai requested funding from the borough assembly to fund the clinic’s extra needs to respond to Covid-19. All expenditures are expected to be reimbursed through the CARES Act.

The borough wants to close its dock to fishermen this season to prevent the port staff from getting ill, which would force the borough to close the port for at least 14 days during the season. If the port is not i n operation, processors cannot deliver salmon products to the dock. Borough Manager Brelsford said in an update on the borough website that that would be “catastrophic for the industry.” Possible alternative locations for fishermen identified are the Peter Pan dock in Naknek, and the bulkhead in King Salmon.

Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham now has two emergency ventilators ready for temporary use on coronavirus patients. Specifically, it has *filters* for ventilator use. Dr. Cathy Hyndman is the clinical director of the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation in Dillingham. She says that they also have ventilators that can be operated manually, and that the filters for manual ventilators can also be used on the mechanical equipment. BBAHC has conducted more than 40 coronavirus tests so far, and at a community meeting on May 4 Hyndman said they are testing more patients according to new guidance by the state.

Results from rapid test machines can produce “false negatives”, meaning a patient who has COVID-19 can test negative for the disease. Kanakanak hospital has been sending rapid test results to the state lab to verify the results.

Hyndman said that they currently have enough kits to continue increased testing, though she does not anticipate they will have enough to test the entire fishing fleet. Kanakanak hospital is also looking to increase its nursing and nurse practitioner staff.

According to Bristol Bay Borough Manager Gregg Brelsford, the chief of staff for Governor Mike Dunleavy, Ben Stevens, said that he would inform communities about what security consultants would be considering as the state works on a plan to assist with enforcement. 

But several people also voiced frustration at the lack of communication between the governor and local entities. Robin Samuelson, the CEO of Ocean Beauty Seafoods, a Curyung Tribal Council member, and chairman of BBEDC, said he was disappointed in Dunleavy’s response.

Thomas Tilden, first chief of the Curyung Tribe, said that the tribe is continuing to work to address health and safety issues – as well as basic logistics – ahead of the summer. He said the focus must be on enforcement on the state and local levels.

Kendra Gottschalk, an administrative assistant for the Naknek Native Village Council, says the tribe has amended its travel resolution because they dodn’t have the capacity to restrict movement around their community. Gottschalk says that finding supplies has been a frustrating process, but they did receive an order from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and they’re trying to get those materials placed around town. Meanwhile, activity has been picking up in Naknek.

Over in Port Heiden, Gerda Kosbruk with the Port Heiden Village Council says that the community is also preparing for the season by stocking up on as much protective equipment and supplies as possible.

Kosbruk added that while enforcement has also been a concern in Port Heiden, airlines are informing the council of any newcomers. The tribe has also requested that Area M fishermen not travel through the community this summer.


State posted positive Dillingham COVID-19 case by mistake

A seiner in the Togiak district. Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Dillingham resident Ella Olsen, 55, was murdered in 2015. Brian Vane Clark was arrested in 2016 for allegedly killing and robbing her. Clark, now 40, was acquitted on all charges by an Anchorage jury in March.

Brian Vane Clark found not guilty in robbery and murder of Ella Olsen

The Togiak herring fishery opened May 3. Staff with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff observed small schools of herring throughout the district Sunday, and small spawning events by the mouth of the river by Ungalikthluk Bay and on the west side of Anchor Point. Staff also saw a large biomass – approximately 40,000 tons – outside of Hagemeister Spit.

Purse seiners can fish from Togiak Reef to Cape Newenham, and from Right Hand Point to Anchor Point, while fishing is closed half a mile around Summit Island. Metervik and Ungalikthluk bays are also closed by regulation. Gillneters can fish the Egg Island Section. Fishing for both the purse seine and gillnet fleets is open until further notice.

Since Icicle Seafoods is the only processor, all harvest information is confidential.

Virtual yuraq sessions are a place to come together in dance and song

Many Alaskans are feeling stressed and anxious during the coronavirus pandemic. But a virtual series of yuraq and yugtun sessions aims to connect people even as they are physically apart. Atkiq Ilutsik-Snyder, the instructor, grew up in the Bristol Bay region, and gave an update on how the classes are going.


Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the Legislative Budget and Audit committee met May 11 to determine whether the legislature had to convene in Juneau to approve CARES Act spending, not whether the governor had the authority to distribute the money himself.