Officials suspect community spread of COVID-19 in Kotzebue, as new case is reported

Kotzebue. (Alaska Public Media file photo)

A Kotzebue resident has tested positive for COVID-19, Maniilaq Association officials announced Friday night. That marks the third case in the city and fourth in Maniilaq’s service area, which covers the Northwest Arctic Borough and the village of Point Hope.

Northwest Arctic Borough Mayor Lucy Nelson says that local officials believe the fourth case is due to community spread from a previous case.

“This happens when the virus is in the community and begins to spread through contact and interaction of community members.” Nelson said in a radio address to the region.

One other person in Kotzebue tested positive for COVID-19 last week. In that case, the person flew into town on Monday, but didn’t get a positive test result until Thursday. 

Nelson and Maniilaq officials advise residents to take additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Stay at home unless going out is absolutely necessary,” Nelson said. “If you do go out, wear a cloth face mask. Keep a six-foot distance from others, wash your hands frequently. No social gatherings.”

Maniilaq provided little additional details on the case, but offered testing to residents for five hours on Saturday morning. They expect the results of those tests by Monday. Maniilaq officials say they will resume testing on Monday.

While most of the state has begun to relax health mandates, the Northwest Arctic Borough has maintained stricter guidelines. In its latest health mandate, the borough is requiring passengers who arrive in Kotzebue to submit to COVID-19 testing. 

Additionally, regional carrier Bering Air announced it will not transport passengers to village communities unless passengers have written proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from Maniilaq or any other certified medical provider. The carrier will also uphold village bans on air travel regardless of test results.