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Stebbins Goes On Lockdown In Response to Outbreak

A fishing net spread out on the beach in Stebbins. The village relied on subsistence foods this summer.

Stebbins is “hunkering down” in response to an outbreak in the village.

Norton Sound Health Corporation, or NSHC, identified a travel-related case in Stebbins on July 26. Three additional community members tested positive on July 27. These new cases are considered community-spread.

The Stebbins Tri-Council decided to place the community on lockdown, Vice Mayor Ward Walker said.

“This means that we are having no visiting between households, everyone masks in public indoor spaces. There is a ten-person limit at the store, five-person limit at the laundry … we are enforcing our curfew at 10:00 in the evening, and we have asked that employees of public organizations be vaccinated by August 6,” Walker explained.

Stebbins dealt with one of the region’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 last fall that resulted in more than 60 positive cases. For an “unserviced” community like Stebbins with no running water and sewer in residential homes, even a small outbreak of cases can be dangerous. Now that the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading through Alaska, Walker emphasizes the importance of taking preventative measures.

“We’re doing everything possible not to have it spread. It could potentially spread faster than when we had the outbreak eight months ago or so in the village. And that’s why we’re trying to nip it in the bud,” Walker said.

Only 41% of residents in Stebbins have been fully vaccinated.

NSHC also identified one travel-related and two community-spread cases in unnamed regional villages. Leaders in these communities have been notified and are taking precautions.

In Nome, a traveling nonresident and three regional residents, one of whom is an NSHC employee, all tested positive for COVID-19 on July 28.

All patients are safely isolating and close contacts have been notified.

UPDATE: As of August 3, there are now 38 active cases of COVID-19 in the region: five in Nome, 31 in Stebbins, and two in unnamed regional villages.

Image at top: A fishing net spread out on the beach in Stebbins. Photo by KNOM.

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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.