Covid-19 testing in Seldovia sponsored by Tribe

May 6, 2020

Ready for sampling. From left to right, Crystal Collier, President & CEO of Seldovia Village Tribe; Trinket Gallien, Assistant Director of Seldovia Village Tribe; Shannon Custer, Prevention Program Coordinator, Seldovia Village Tribe; Dr. Carey Gear, Medical Director, SVT Health & Wellness; Shirley Hughes, Patient Services Representative, SVT Health & Wellness; and Darrel Baak, Medical Assistant, SVT Health & Wellness, set up on April 29 in Seldovia to conduct drive-through Covid-19 test-gathering.
Credit Seldovia Village Tribe

Residents of Seldovia and Jakolof Bay got some good news over the weekend after nearly half the residents of the area took the novel coronavirus test, and the results that were returned came back negative. That announcement came Monday evening in a joint announcement by the Seldovia Village Tribe and the City of Seldovia.
    Laurel Hilts is the marketing and public relations executive for the Tribe, which sponsored the tests.
    “Year round, there's about 375 residents between Seldovia and Jakolof Bay, so following the road system over here. So, you know, did we have a sense of how many people would come out? We didn't really know. We also knew some folks have returned who are seasonal residents, so we could have more than 375 in town on a given day. But we would, we felt we'd be super happy if we had 50 people come and get tested,” she said. “So it was just really thrilling for all of us. In fact, we were just discussing that it was just a happy day. The sun was out. Everybody was happy to be able to see each other, even if they were driving up, you know, in their cars for driving testing. But it was just a day that we all celebrated and then to get the results that came back, you know, as negative for the community. I just think everyone breathes a little freer.”
    Hilt said 168 samples were taken and 166 results were reported negative. The other two samples were inconclusive, she said, and will need to be taken again.
    Hilt said the reinforcement of Seldovia citizens’ best practices has also allowed them to form what State Medical Director Anne Zink called “squads.”
     “So an example would be maybe there's, uh, two families in town who are close friends and they've been seeing each other from a distance, but talking on the phone or video conferencing, uh, seeing each other when they go to the post office, et cetera, that their children are used to playing together. And man, you know, what can we do, and well, let's sit out on the lawn. You know, so everybody sits out on the lawn, but eventually it reaches a point where, you know, you kind of come together a little bit,” she said. “And Dr. Zink has actually articulated that, that you can do that with a team of people. Your squad, that you know where they are, where they've been, where they've traveled or not traveled. Whether or not they've been around illness. And the number one thing being that if somebody became sick, no matter what the illness was, that everyone would need to separate, and pull out of that squad. So, that's definitely something that you see a little bit.”
    City Clerk Heidi Gaegel said Seldovia has not instituted any restrictions more strict than what is laid out in the governor’s mandate, even though he gave the green light for smaller communities to shut themselves off completely.
     “Things seem to be doing, being pretty smooth. People are pretty respectful. We do get a lot of phone calls with questions of how to proceed with coming into Seldovia and how to do it safely and cautiously,” Gaegel said. “And you know, as a community, there's a lot of, not a lot, but there are people and resources available. It's always been the nature of this community to be helpful and supportive because we are small and our resources are limited. So I feel like there's been a lot of support and a lot of awareness and everybody's just really trying to do their part to keep Seldovia safe.”
    Along those lines, Hilt says it is when travel and social distancing mandates relax that community use of protection should rise.
     “With the state's loosening of restrictions, we should see, in fact, that people tighten up on their personal actions and choices that they make to help protect themselves and others,” she said. “So it should be that we actually don't loosen our, our mask wearing or (staying) six feet away, but that we actually pay extra attention to it since we are seeing more people traveling around.”
    Hilt says the Seldovia Village Tribe may conduct another round of testing in the future as the need arises.