Wednesday, April 1, 2020

St. Paul Island Bans All Non-Essential Travel

The city’s location in the midst of the Central Bering Sea is usually considered a disadvantage because of its remoteness, but during the pandemic, the Saint Paul City Council has taken steps to keep the raging coronavirus from infecting their Pribilof Island fishing community.

In response to federal and state emergency declarations over the COVID-19 pandemic, the city council banned all non-essential travel to the island through April 15. City Manager Phil Zavadil said the council would meet again on the matter before that date to determine if that travel ban should be extended.

“The city council adopted this resolution both in response to the state’s mandates, but also in recognition of our community’s limited ability to treat individuals who might develop serious COVID-19 related symptoms,” Zavadil said.

The island is home to some 400 mostly Unangan (Aleut) residents. The Saint Paul Island Community Health Center, which is run by the Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska, has no resident doctors and just one ventilator. “Residents with severe medical conditions are usually medivaced by plane to Anchorage area hospitals,” Zavadil said. “We need to first of all prevent contagion on the island, hence the travel ban, and secondly be prepared to treat cases locally through quarantining and other CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommended methods,” he said.

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