Metlakatla locks down after officials announce first two local cases of COVID-19

Metlakatla’s longhouse stands on Oct. 3, 2020. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Alaska’s only Native reservation locked down Friday. That’s after officials with Metlakatla Indian Community announced the Southeast Alaska village’s first cases of COVID-19.

Metlakatla avoided the coronavirus for nearly eight months. But that streak ended Thursday when an unnamed resident tested positive. Officials there say the person was immediately isolated. The source of the infection is under investigation.

Now, a 72-hour lockdown took effect Friday, November 6. Judith Eaton is Metlakatla Indian Community’s secretary.

“The general public must quarantine at home until the contact tracing procedures are completed,” Eaton told KRBD in a phone interview.

Testing revealed a second case in Metlakatla Friday afternoon. Officials say another update will be provided Friday evening.

Metlatkatla’s tribal government has had strict protocols in place that required travelers from high-risk areas to quarantine for two weeks. That’s been expanded to ban all but essential travel to and from Annette Island. And even those deemed essential are asked to quarantine for five days.

Classes at Metlakatla schools were canceled Friday, and several businesses announced they’d close. But Metlakatla’s primary grocery store remains open.

Face masks and six-foot distancing are now mandatory in public settings throughout the Annette Islands Reserve. Eaton asks residents to abide by a few simple steps:

“Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Be safe. Be aware,” Eaton said.

Ketchikan is seeing its highest case numbers since the pandemic began. It shares a ferry link with Metlakatla that runs five days a week.

Lockdown restrictions are projected to end as early as Monday, November 9.