To curb coronavirus spread, North Slope Borough suspends travel into its communities

Locals watch the sun rise in Utqiagvik. The community, as well as the rest of the North Slope Borough, has had all travel suspended as concerns over the coronavirus grow. (Photo by Ravenna Koenig/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

As coronavirus spreads across the state, the North Slope Borough has suspended air, sea and land entry into any of the borough’s eight village communities. 

Those include Utqiagvik, Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Atqasuk, Nuiqsut, Anaktuvuk Pass and Kaktovik.

It follows numerous villages across that state that have recently moved to restrict movement in and out, including many in the Yukon-Kuskokwim and Bristol Bay regions. Doctors, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and leaders of many small communities have called on the governor to limit visitors to the state altogether.

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In an emergency order issued Thursday, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower Jr. says “the potential for undetected transmission of the coronavirus by infected individuals seeking to enter our communities is too great.”

North Slope Borough in red.

The suspension does not apply to cargo shipments or to certain Department of Transportation workers. Those who wish to travel to any of the communities must get a waiver from the borough. 

Those who do not follow the restriction are subject to a misdemeanor charge, carrying a jail sentence of up to six months and up to a $500 fine. 

While some individual villages throughout the state have issued various forms of travel restrictions, this is the first time an entire borough has banned travel since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The order goes into effect starting at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and ends April 15.