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Village Locks Down as Virus Moves Through Region

Charlotte Apatiki, city clerk in Gambell, at her desk. Photo: JoJo Phillips, 2020.

With more than thirty people testing positive for COVID-19 in Gambell, and nearly 100 active cases in the region, residents have made major adjustments.

At the grocery store, which serves the entire community of 700, the phone line is constantly busy. Residents are asked to form a line, while standing six feet apart, and wait for the store clerk to deliver their groceries.

Village lockdowns exacerbate existing challenges. Several times this season, cargo planes with food have failed to land. This spring and summer, a broken fuel line meant rationing gas – in the middle of the subsistence hunt. “We haven’t had any eggs and fresh produce in quite a while,” said city clerk Charlotte Apatiki.

She says while it would be nice to have eggs for baking projects to keep her six children entertained, she doubts the family will go hungry.

“Most of us, if we were lucky to have gas during the spring harvest, are living on Native foods and fish,” Apatiki says.

The mayor of Gambell, Joel James, spoke on the phone in the middle of the day: “I’m a very busy man. I was delivering toilet paper to people in isolation.” He says the community is prepared: if the outbreak grows and more people are sick, there are still enough quarantine units available.

Image at top: Charlotte Apatiki, Gambell city clerk, at her desk. She says she is trying to work out how to keep her children entertained during the village lockdown.

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