Here's how COVID-19 is impacting air travel in Alaska

Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 5:28 PM AKDT
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Getting around in rural Alaska has always been a challenge, but now the communities that depend on air travel for cargo and transport are experiencing all new challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This week, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a mandate requiring that travelers entering Alaska put themselves into a 14-day quarantine. Isolated villages and boroughs around the state are following suit, announcing flight restrictions for anyone who's air travel is not considered essential. Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said that all visitors are to report to their designated hotel or rented lodging to quarantine and that the state is monitoring where visitors in quarantine are staying through mandatory declaration forms at airports

On the North Slope, the villages of Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Utqiagvik, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, and Wainwright will begin restricting access to its communities by land, air or sea - effective starting on March 28th. The order does not apply pilots, air traffic workers, DOT employees and other essential staff; however, those who need transport as the result of a medical emergency or in order to protect the welfare of others may apply for a travel waiver through the borough mayor's office.

The Northwest Borough has also issued an emergency "hunker down" order, asking the public to limit nonessential business and travel while maintaining a safe social distance.

According to the latest updates from the Kawerak Inc. webpage, additional travel restrictions have also been implemented in: Diomede, Gambell, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, Unalakleet, Golovin, Wales, Savoonga, White Mountain, Elim, Koyuk, St Michael, Teller, Brevig Mission and Stebbins.

Details regarding those bans are available:

Bering Air has also announced drastic changes to its services, limiting flights to essential travelers with proper authorization documents. The delivery of mail, cargo and medical supplies will continue, along with the company's 24/7 medivac partnership with the Norton Sound Health Corporation.

Airline passengers will not be allowed into Unalakleet until May 1. Passengers who have to make a stop in Unalakleet en route to the surrounding villages are now required to remain within the airport boundaries. The measure is being enforced by the Unalakleet Police Department. Local agencies will reevaluate the ban three weeks later on April 15, 2020; with no positive cases, we will consider moving to highly restrictive travel requirements.

In Mekoryuk, Steven Whitman says that VPSOs are greeting passengers at the airport, asking residents to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Toksook Bay Tribal Administrator Robert Pitka says his village will also mandate that anyone returning to the community quarantine themselves for 14 days. Similar orders have been given by the villages of: Hooper Bay, Kwethluk, Deering, Buckland, Naknek, Napaskiak, and the Curyung Tribal Council of Dillingham.

In Tyonek, all air travelers will be turned away unless they have previously undergone two weeks of quarantine and provide proof of a clear medical screening.

This article will continue to be updated as updates occur, or we verify additional travel restrictions.