The city of Yakutat and the Yakutat Community Health Center are hiring eight people to conduct coronavirus screening and testing at the Yakutat Airport. The small community is also talking with Allen Marine, the tour company, about  helping conduct screenings (Emily Kwong, KCAW / August 2017)

At airports across Alaska, communities are screening and testing out-of-state travelers for the coronavirus. They’re following new state regulations that went into effect earlier this month. For some smaller communities that aren’t on the road system like Yakutat, pivoting quickly to set up testing stations at airports wasn’t easy.

“We were informed on that Wednesday, I think, before the Friday mandate came out, so we were not set up to handle the airport, so it kinda got dropped on us,” John Waldron, Yakutat’s Incident Commander for COVID-19, said.

Most travelers arriving from out-of-state must show proof of a negative COVID test result in the last 72 hours if they want to avoid quarantine. The city and clinic are hiring eight people to help Yakutat follow those rules. So far, Waldron said, they’ve been able to handle the changes through a collaborative effort.

“I’ve been fortunate with the clinic here in town and the tribe along with the city. All three of us have been working to do what we have to do,” Waldron said.

Travel to Yakutat hasn’t picked up much, but the city is trying to prepare for a possible influx of travelers later in the summer, as national and international travel restrictions may lift.

“Our biggest concern here in Yakutat is probably the August, September, October time, because on those days, it’s not uncommon to have 150 to 200 people a day coming in for 2-3 days each,” he said.

Waldron said Yakutat is also working with local businesses on their plans to mitigate risk, especially bed-and-breakfasts and lodges. If one of their clients tests positive, they’ll have to isolate until they’re cleared by public health officials.

“They can end up in that bed and breakfast for six weeks. And that bed and breakfast can’t take in other clients,” Waldron said. “So we’re gonna try and have people come and see if we can get them to understand that they’re taking on a bigger responsibility when they are bringing guests in.”

Waldron said Yakutat is talking with Allen Marine, the tour boat company, about helping at the Yakutat Airport. The company currently has a state contract to conduct screenings at Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport.