COVID-19 cases send Gambell into lockdown

Three relatively small windmills turn above small, one-story homes. Green grass in the foreground and thick fog in the background .
An overview of Gambell, Alaska. (Photo from KNOM file.)

There are 17 active cases of COVID-19 in Gambell after Norton Sound Health Corporation announced four new patients tested positive for the virus on Friday and three on Saturday.

According to a press release from NSHC, the health corporation has been working with tribal leaders for more than a week to reduce any further spread of the coronavirus. The City of Gambell has instituted a hunker down mandate asking all residents to remain at home for two weeks, and to only leave for necessary medical needs and groceries.

Read more stories of how the coronavirus is affecting rural Alaska.

NSHC says the local Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) is patrolling in the village to help limit contact between residents. There is also a community-wide curfew in place currently.

Roughly 400 people, or more than half of Gambell’s population, have been tested for COVID-19 since one household with six individuals contracted the virus in that community earlier this month. NSHC says they will send a second response team to the St. Lawrence Island community this week.

Separately, a resident of Savoonga, the other community on St. Lawrence Island, tested positive for the virus on Friday. According to NSHC, the patient was identified through the community’s testing and quarantine requirements of those who travel into Savoonga. The individual is safely isolating, and the community’s leaders have been notified.

The State Section of Epidemiology and Public Health Nursing are following up with any close contacts of the newly confirmed cases. There are now 78 cases of COVID-19 in the Norton Sound region, 20 are active while 58 are considered recovered.