Y-K Delta health officials report 20 new COVID-19 cases in Quinhagak, pop. 700

Housing in the Yukon-Kuskokwim community of Quinhagak, Alaska (Photo from Alaska Department of Commerce Community Photo Library)

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta experienced an unprecedented single-day increase of COVID-19 cases on Oct. 5, when health officials announced 20 new cases — all in Quinhagak. The news comes after YKHC announced on Oct. 2 that there was community spread of the virus in the village.

Starting Sept. 30, Quinhagak went into lockdown after several cases of coronavirus were announced in the community. On Oct. 2, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced that Quinhagak was experiencing community spread of the virus, but that still didn’t prepare Quinhagak residents for the news that 20 people in the village received positive results on Oct. 5.

“Holy cow, that’s a lot,” said Josephine Smart.

“Wow, see, that’s crazy,” David Forbes said.

“Wow. That’s, that’s a lot,” said Colleen Mark.

Despite the startlingly high numbers, Smart, Forbes and Mark said that they were remaining calm. For Mark, the news doesn’t change how she or her family behave.

“We’ve been getting used to staying home since March,” Mark said. “I don’t go out anywhere. I don’t let my boys go out anywhere.”

Forbes, another Quinhagak resident, said that the lockdown and the resulting social isolation are especially difficult for people living in villages.

“Because everyone’s related and, you know, your aunt or uncle’s coming over. It’s pretty hard to say, ‘Hey, man, you can’t come in my house,’” Forbes said. “Yup’ik people aren’t used to doing that.”

Forbes said he has family members that visit his home every day, basically members of his household. After the 20 cases that were announced on Oct. 5, though, he said that he would have to think about asking them to stop coming by.

The community has a population of about 700.

KYUK - Bethel

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