COVID-19 cases in several Northwest Arctic villages halts in-person schooling

Kotzebue as seen from the road east of town (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

All three schools in Kotzebue, as well as three Northwest Arctic village schools, are in the red, high-risk operational zone. That means schooling will have to be conducted totally remotely.

Regional health care provider Maniilaq Association announced several positive cases of COVID-19 last week, including multiple cases in Kotzebue, and a case apiece in Noatak and Kiana. The village of Buckland continued to see community spread of the virus last week, with another positive case happening in the village.

According to Northwest Arctic Borough School District superintendent Terri Walker, for a school in a village community to move from the red zone to the yellow, medium-risk zone, they must have zero cases of COVID-19 over a 14-day period. Kotzebue has a threshold of four cases.

Reopening after all the other village schools, Kotzebue had allowed limited in-person schooling for a couple days last week, before having to move back to the red zone.

The schools in Selawik and Shungnak, which haven’t had a case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days, are also in the red zone due to staffing shortages.

The most recent cases in the Maniilaq service area were announced on Sept. 24, including two Kotzebue residents, two Kiana residents, and a resident each from Noatak and Point Hope. Among those cases, Kotzebue, Kiana and Noatak all had an individual test positive after returning from Red Dog Mine.

This story has been updated with school closures in Selawik and Shungnak.

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