The City of Nome issued an emergency order yesterday to suspend all non-essential travel to Nome, and the surrounding communities in the region, so as to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Starting this Thursday (at 12:01am) any person flying into Nome will be required, upon arrival, to self-quarantine for 14 days. The restrictions also extend to airlines and carriers that service the Bering Strait Region. The only people considered exempt from this quarantine are approved critical infrastructure workers providing services requested and approved by Nome or a community in the region.
City Manager Glenn Steckman explained to media in a press conference on Monday, that the quarantine requirements apply to Nome residents who are returning from anywhere outside of the City of Nome. That includes the Lower 48, Hawaii, and even Anchorage. This goes beyond the Governor’s most recent mandate that requires self-quarantine for Alaskans who have traveled outside of the state.
Travelers wishing to leave Nome as of Thursday March 26 will have to apply for a permit with the City Manager to embark or disembark on an airplane at any of Nome’s airport terminals. That travel is to be approved by City staff within 24 hours.Essential-Air-Travel-Services-Use-Permit-2020
You can download the Essential Air Travel Services Use Permit form above by clicking here.
Critical infrastructure workers and workers providing essential air travel services are to be approved by the community they are servicing before traveling. Steckman explains that those workers could be emergency medical service providers, or specialized electricians, engineers, and even wastewater plant mechanics. These individuals are not required to do a 14 day quarantine.City-of-Nome-Emergency-Order-No.-2020-01-Regulating-Air-Travel-2020.03.23
Manager Steckman clarified with KNOM by phone that the city will try to be permissive in allowing Nome residents to travel, but they do need to consider that there will be restrictions when they return.
“For those people going down to Anchorage to do shopping, they may consider it essential, but the City of Nome does not. And if they do come back, they are expected to quarantine for two weeks.”
Even a person who travels to Anchorage for medical purposes will need to self-quarantine when they get back to Nome.
For now, Steckman says city officials aren’t going to be exercising much authority to enforce these travel restrictions and quarantine measures.
“We are asking the airlines, and some of them are already doing it, asking how their customers feel before they even get on an airline. We’re not there at the gates of the airport screening people as they come into Nome.”
Alaska Airlines has already reduced flights in and out of Nome down to one daily flight, for example the 153 flight was cancelled yesterday [Monday] evening. Manager Steckman stressed that the supply and freight chain through cargo flights will not be disrupted.
Many communities in the Bering Strait region have already begun to implement travel bans, anyone wishing to travel to a Bering Strait community should consult with the city’s leadership in that community before making travel plans.
The City has not established firm punitive measures for people who fail to comply with the emergency order on essential air travel, but as per the Nome Code of Ordinances, it is possible for residents to be fined for non-compliance. The emergency ordinance is currently in effect until midnight, April 14th.
Anyone wishing to fly to a Bering Strait community through Nome should contact the City of Nome and their final destination community before making travel arrangements.
Image at top: An Alaska Airlines jet takes off at the Nome airport. Photo: David Dodman, used with permission.
Edited March 25, at 4:34pm: Added the Essential Air Travel Services Use Permit after it became available from the City of Nome.