Even though she was still concerned about reopening so soon, Mindy Roggenkamp, co-owner of Franklin Street Barbers in downtown Juneau was open for business Friday.
“I’m a little leery of it so I’ve been on a really limited basis right now,” Roggenkamp said, wearing her required personal protective equipment.
Under the governor’s mandate personal care facilities, such as hairdressers, nail salons and tattoo parlors, have to follow a set of guidelines from the state requiring social distancing and other preventative measures. PPE requirements, in particular, have been giving some local businesses trouble.
Workers must wear masks, and in some cases gloves, aprons, or other protective gear, that needs to be changed between each customer. In addition to the PPE, the entire work area needs to be thoroughly sanitized between each customer, according to the mandate.
“I have to completely sanitize the shop between customers. Wipe everything down and redo my floors. It’s a little nerve-racking,” Roggenkamp said.
Some businesses have still been able to operate through online sales even while their storefronts are closed. Friday afternoon, workers were busy inside the Sealaska Heritage Store but they weren’t open to the public.
“We’re taking this opportunity to make more of a positive, and trying to move forward with the online store,” said Tammy Hanson, Retail Director for the Sealaska Heritage Store. “It’s something that we’ve had the passion to do but never really had the time to do it because we’ve had so many people coming through the doors.”
The store has been doing well selling jewelry and other products online, and Hanson said she was able to keep her four year-round employees. But without a tourist season, the store’s operations are going to be more limited.
“I was just about to hire 10 other seasonal employees right when the rug got pulled out from underneath us,” Hanson said. “And I’m just thankful to keep my crew moving forward and keeping them busy.”
As for opening their doors, Hanson said she was going to consider it over the weekend, but hadn’t made a decision yet.
When Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced certain businesses would be able to allowed to open under strict guidelines, he said the health of Alaskans would always be put first. Alaskans would just need to continue to be vigilant about social distancing and hygiene, he said on Tuesday when he announced the reopening.
The governor and other state health officials have touted the state’s low case numbers for COVID-19, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska has the fewest cases in the country. At 337, Alaska is the last state to have fewer than 400 cases of the disease, according to CDC data.
The key to reopening safely, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, is the ability to test and detect any spread of the virus as quickly as possible. But while individuals can give samples at medical facilities all over the state, the actual testing for the disease is done at a laboratory, and it can be several days before results are returned.
At a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting Thursday night, Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Chuck Bill told city leaders most of the samples from Juneau were being sent to a private lab in Arizona because they had a faster turn around time than the state.
“It takes less than a day to process once it gets to the state lab, but getting it to the state lab is the challenge,” Bill told the assembly members through an online conference call.
An Alaska Airlines flight leaves Juneau every day at 5 p.m., Bill said, and takes Juneau’s samples to Arizona.
“Depending on where you do the draw and where it goes you could add 48 hours,” before results come back, Bill said.
But the city doesn’t appear to have very much, if any community spread, Mila Cosgrove, head of the city’s emergency operations center, told the Assembly at their meeting Thursday.
However, the ability to test was based on the number of testing kits the city can get, according to Bill.
“There’s hope that within several weeks we will have another piece of equipment, at Bartlett,” Bill said. “But again, it’s going to be dependent on the number of test kits that we can get and we’re in competition with the rest of the world for those test kits right now.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.