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Equipment from Oil Spill Kits Repurposed for COVID-19 Response in Bering Strait

Three women wearing medical scrubs
In Shaktoolik during the statewide drill, medical professionals Sarah Sampson, Sheila Baker, and Kristen Paniptchuk helped distribute the limited supply of medications they had stockpiled. Photo from Danielle Slingsby, Kawerak; used with permission.

15 communities in the Bering Strait Region are utilizing gear designed for oil spill response to instead be prepared for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Kawerak Inc. announced Thursday that its Environmental Program sent oil spill response kits, complete with personal protective equipment, to the majority of its regional communities last week. Originally, Kawerak deemed these kits as essential to respond to the potential for more oil spills in the area, as the amount of international shipping traffic in the Bering Strait Region continues to grow.

Now, the Tyvec suits, protective goggles, and rubber gloves included in these kits are being used by local village clinics as protection against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

As of this report, there have been no cases of the disease reported in the Bering Strait Region, which includes Nome.

Image at top: Shaktoolik’s medical professionals Sarah Sampson, Sheila Baker, and Kristen Paniptchuk received a supply of medications for a training exercise last year called Ragin’ Contagion. Photo from Danielle Slingsby, Kawerak; used with permission.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.