By Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska city plans to increase the number of visitors participating in coronavirus screening tests at its airport by adding a financial incentive.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation said between 25% and 60% of passengers arriving at the Bethel airport volunteer for coronavirus testing, Alaska Public Media reported Monday.

Bethel officials hope to use some of the city’s $8.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to increase the percentage of passengers agreeing to airport testing to 100%.

“Whether it’s a gift card, or a raffle ticket for some prize, but some kind of a financial incentive to catch people’s attention to go get tested,” City Manager Vincenzo Corazza said.

The testing is voluntary and an inducement with a monetary value could increase participation, Corazza said.

Bethel’s city attorney has analyzed the possibility to determine that it would be an appropriate use of the federal virus funding, Corazza said.

If the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation approves the reward proposal, the city plans to add a booth to the testing center at the airport as soon as possible, Corazza said.

There were two positive coronavirus tests in Bethel on consecutive days last week and officials are confident both cases stem from people who traveled to the region, the health corporation said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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