Supplies are being sent to Savoonga, where COVID-19 is surging

Woman sends supplies to Savoonga, where a large COVID-19 outbreak is happening
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:52 PM AKDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 7:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Yaari Walker has lived in Anchorage for years but every day she thinks about the St. Lawrence Island community of Savoonga where she grew up. In fact, most of her family is still there, and she’s worried about them. Despite being vaccinated, at least half a dozen have COVID-19.

“My mother, my two brothers, my two grandkids, everybody in the house has it except my brother,” Walker said.

According to the Norton Sound Health Corporation, there were 109 active COVID-19 cases in Savoonga as of Nov. 1. It’s a lot, considering the population is less than 800 people. But rather than feeling overwhelmed by the extent of the virus, it’s pushed Walker into action.

Walker has purchased thousands of dollars of supplies that are difficult to find on the island. Things like hand sanitizers and vitamins. She put out a post on her Facebook page asking for help and people responded. She said she’s also spent several thousand dollars of her own money to get enough to supply the entire village.

“Our people on St. Lawrence Island, we always take care of each other, no matter what,” Walker said. “We always share with each other, we always take care of each other. And I felt like I needed to give back in some small way.”

Walker, who is proficient in traditional medicine, and sells her Alaskan products on her website, is also sending something she knows that people will appreciate. It’s a salve that she and her husband Marq make out of the plant called Riiglluk in her Siberian Yupik Native language, and Stinkweed or Wormwood in English.

“It’s kind of works like Vicks, Vicks(vapo) Rub,” she said of the salve. “You just apply it on your chest, your throat, your back.”

Walker said the salve won’t prevent or cure COVID-19, but it can bring some relief.

“It helps with the cough. It helps ease some pain,” she said. “So it won’t cure COVID, but it definitely helps.”

State health officials say traditional foods and plants can help with symptoms like sore throats and coughing. Although, the state pharmacist cautions people should make sure the natural medication they are taking is safe.

Walker said she often prays as she puts together the ingredients for her salve. She’s making enough for every household in the village.

“And what I pray for is this salve or tea will help people,” she said. “So that’s what I say in my prayer, please help the people that need this.”

Walker plans to ship out her supplies to Savoonga on Friday. She said she may consider a second round if it’s needed, and if she can get more donations to help out with the costs.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Yaari Walker’s name.

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