Alaska village requires full vaccine for in-person shopping

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — A village in Alaska has mandated that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed into the community’s stores and businesses.

Kongiganak had 50% of its eligible residents vaccinated with at least one dose as of April 9, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday, citing the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

Kongiganak reported that it had a population of 439 people in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Sheila Phillip, the Kongiganak Traditional Council secretary, said that people who are fully vaccinated can go inside the village’s two stores if they wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

People not fully vaccinated “can still make phone orders and their orders are delivered to their home,” Phillip said.

The general manager for Qemirtalek Coast Corporation, Harvey Paul, said his village store allows four people inside.

Paul said his employees verify that a customer is vaccinated by checking that their name is on a list provided by the tribe, KYUK-AM reported.

“Every couple of days, they’ll give us a new list,” Paul said. “The list keeps getting bigger and bigger. That’s a good sign, you know?”

Paul said allowing only vaccinated people to shop in-person is helping increase vaccination rates in the village.

“It gives them the incentive, ‘Hey look, I better get vaccinated too so I can go to the store,’” Paul said. “The best way to curb this virus is to get vaccinated.”

Bethel and other Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages are allowing people to enter stores without proving they have been vaccinated.

Phillip said Kongiganak has taken stricter precautions because over a third of village’s residents have contracted the virus and two people have died from COVID-19.

“Our whole community was just devastated by the first death,” Phillip said. “And with that in mind, we tried to be as strict as we could for as long as we could.”

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, breathing trouble, sore throat, muscle pain and loss of taste or smell. Most people develop only mild symptoms.

But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia. Sometimes people with a coronavirus infection display no symptoms.