Courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe                                Staff with the Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness Center and the Seldovia Village Tribal Administration conduct free COVID-19 testing in Seldovia.

Courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe Staff with the Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness Center and the Seldovia Village Tribal Administration conduct free COVID-19 testing in Seldovia.

Seldovia tests half of its community in 1 day

Free COVID-19 testing was available to all of the residents in their community.

Thanks to the efforts of their local health and wellness center, one of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s more remote communities was able to test nearly half of its residents for COVID-19 in just one day.

The Seldovia Village Tribe conducted free COVID-19 testing on Wednesday that was available to all of the residents in their community, which includes the City of Seldovia, the Seldovia Village Tribe and Jackolof Bay. The community of Seldovia is located south of Homer across Kachemak Bay and is not connected to the state’s main road system.

Laurel Hilts, marketing and public relations director for SVT, said that 168 of the area’s approximately 375 year-round residents participated in Wednesday’s free testing.

“We didn’t have a sense of how many people would participate, and we’re just really pleased with the numbers that came through,” Hilts said. “It was an opportunity for them to participate and have this sampling of where the community stands, so I think we were united in that effort in a really positive way.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, community members were able to go to one of two locations: SVT’s tribal administration building that sits across Main Street from the Seldovia Harbor and the Seldovia Pavilion that overlooks the harbor. Drive-up testing was available in the administration building’s parking lot, while people could simply walk up to the pavilion to get tested.

Hilts said that everyone was advised to remain at least 6 feet away from each other while waiting to get tested, and proper protocols were followed to ensure everyone’s safety. Each person who was tested also filled out a form that was collected by SVT so that, in the event of a positive case, the person can be quickly identified and contacted by public health nurses doing contact tracing investigations. The tests were sent to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage to be processed, and Hilts said that she expects the results to come back within the next few days.

The tests were fully paid for by the Seldovia Village Tribe, which owns and operates three Health and Wellness Centers in Seldovia, Homer and Anchor Point. Hilts said that SVT decided to make the tests freely available to get as many people tested as possible and create a “snapshot” of where the community stands in regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“That way, individuals did not have to register as patients, and they didn’t have to have insurance involved or self pay,” Hilts said. “They could just show up on the day and have the swabbing done.”

In the lead up to the testing day, staff for SVT’s Health and Wellness Center were gathering the necessary supplies — masks, gloves, test kits, etc. — while tribal administration staff set up signs and arrows around town telling people where to go to get tested. Word was spread in a number of different ways over the last week, Hilts, said, including through a posting on the community bulletin board at the post office and via information on social media. The day before the community testing, an instructional video was posted on the SVT Facebook page that showed how samples are collected using the nasal swab.

Hilts said that word travels fast in her small community, and by the time the plan was first announced at the Seldovia Chamber of Commerce’s Thursday meeting, many people were already looking forward to the event.

“I think in general it was a really exciting day for the community,” Hilts said. “It was beautiful weather, and people were just in a good spirit.”

Hilts said that the Seldovia Village Tribe is prepared to do another round of free community testing, should the need arise.

Courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe                                Seldovia Village Tribe CEO Crystal Collier, left, and SVT Health and Wellness Center Prevention Coordinator Shannon Custer, right, conduct free COVID-19 testing in Seldovia on Wednesday.

Courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe Seldovia Village Tribe CEO Crystal Collier, left, and SVT Health and Wellness Center Prevention Coordinator Shannon Custer, right, conduct free COVID-19 testing in Seldovia on Wednesday.

Dr. Carey Gear, Medical Director for the Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness Center, is seen here in Seldovia, Alaska on April 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe)

Dr. Carey Gear, Medical Director for the Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness Center, is seen here in Seldovia, Alaska on April 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe)

Donated masks given out to Seldovia residents during free COVID-19 testing are seen here in Seldovia, Alaska on April 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe)

Donated masks given out to Seldovia residents during free COVID-19 testing are seen here in Seldovia, Alaska on April 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe)

Anna Gordeev, Medical Assistant at the Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness Center, poses for the camera during free COVID-19 testing in Seldovia, Alaska on April 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe)

Anna Gordeev, Medical Assistant at the Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness Center, poses for the camera during free COVID-19 testing in Seldovia, Alaska on April 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy Laurel Hilts/Seldovia Village Tribe)

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