The City of Nome is refining the enforcement of its travel policies and sending a police officer to Nome’s airport to greet travelers arriving from Anchorage.
The normally shoulder-to shoulder and bustling Alaska Airlines terminal in Nome was deserted late Thursday morning as the 151-flight arrived. Most of the seating within the building, for people waiting to fly, has been removed to encourage social distancing.
EMT Rose Reale with the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department stood at the gate ready to hand out entry declaration forms to the passengers arriving from Anchorage.
“REALE: I don’t know who is coming in, not specifically, I just know how many people are coming off that plane.
KNOM: How many people?
REALE: Two. Yesterday it was three.”
The official City of Nome forms that Reale has ask where the person has traveled to within the last two weeks. It also notifies them in bright red lettering that they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in Nome or they could face fines. If there’s a local outbreak of COVID-19, Reale explains, it will help Nome more quickly identify who has recently traveled to places with infection.
“Just in case, we’re able to pin-point exactly who was where and when. Then we can reach out to them and let them know that they’re possibly compromised.”
Travelers are not actually required to fill out the forms, but they do have to follow the mandatory quarantine procedures unless they are an exempted essential worker. If someone feels unwell, Reale has a thermometer to take their temperature and do a screening of symptoms at the airport.
Nome Police Officer Gray Harrison was also on scene to greet passengers at the gate. He says NPD is ready to enforce quarantine regulations.
“If somebody is in violation, we write it up and send it to the District Attorney and then we have to wait for a court order to actually enforce some things.”
Members of Nome’s ambulance department and police force have been monitoring the terminal since Wednesday and the plan is for them to be there throughout the duration of the City’s emergency travel ordinance.
While some have called for a complete ban on travel from Anchorage, Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman isn’t willing to do that at this time. But he does say that flights have been reduced to one a day and only on weekdays.
“Alaska Air carries mail in, they carry freight into the city. Same thing with Bering Air, same thing with RAVN. We must keep the supply chains open.”
Alaska Airlines is not traveling through Kotzebue on its route to Nome at this time.
So far, Steckman says, people have been compliant with Nome’s travel regulations and the City is seeing many people fill out travel permits. As of Monday, he estimates the City had processed over 100 permits.
By the time of this report, KNOM has not received a response on how many permits the City has denied and for what reasons. Steckman says they are not denying residents traveling from Anchorage through Nome who are looking to return to their home village, though they do need to contact their village for information on travel restrictions.
Over at the Bering Air terminal, the scene is even more deserted than at Alaska Airlines.
Bering Air agents are confirming that passengers have filled out exit permits with the City of Nome before they board. These allow villages to confirm with Nome and the airline who has been traveling.
Only one couple sat in the terminal at 12:30pm on Thursday. The pair was from Shishmaref and told KNOM they were traveling back from Nome for medical purposes. Both said that they had filled out paperwork with Nome and Shishmaref. The couple will be self-quarantining when they get home.
Image at top: EMT Rose Reale and NPD Officer Wade “Gray” Harrison explain quarantine policies to arrivals at the Nome airport. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).