Assembly members had expressed concern the 14-day quarantine mandate for out-of-state travelers was going to expire when Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he was extending it. City leaders say they want more testing capacity before they feel safe lifting the restriction. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

Assembly members had expressed concern the 14-day quarantine mandate for out-of-state travelers was going to expire when Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he was extending it. City leaders say they want more testing capacity before they feel safe lifting the restriction. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

City leaders welcome quarantine extension

Dunleavy extended the mandate after hearing from local leaders

The state health mandate requiring out-of-state travelers to quarantine for 14 days before interacting with the public was extended to June 2, said Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum announced Monday at a press conference in Anchorage.

Members of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly had previously expressed concern about the mandate’s previous expiration date, May 19. Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon last week sent a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, asking him to extend the mandate.

“While Juneauites have moved cautiously with you to gradual ‘re-opening,’” Weldon wrote in her May 14, letter, “the community and the Assembly remained concerned about the prospect of lifting interstate travel restrictions.”

As an isolated community, Juneau and other Southeast towns are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection coming from out of state travelers.

In an interview Monday morning, City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire the extension was welcome news.

“The Assembly will be happy he extended, that was the big issue for all of us,” Watt said.

Watt said the mayor and the Assembly were concerned with expanding the city’s testing capability before lifting the mandate.

[OK for now, but Assembly is uncomfortable with interstate travel]

The number of people coming into Juneau through the airport was steadily increasing, according to Watt, though he said the number was still far below normal numbers in previous years.

Watt said the city’s willingness to lift the mandate would depend on several things, including how many people are coming through Juneau, for how long and how many tests are available.

“I think it really depends how many and how much testing is available,” Watt said. “And is there something in between the 14-day quarantine and doing nothing?”

At Friday’s press conference, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said state agencies would be monitoring the number of cases on a daily basis and lifting the mandate before its new expiration date would be considered.

“We will talk more about that because if things are looking good there will be a decision point on travel coming in from outside the state,” Dunleavy said.

Watt said city leaders would be watching the return of legislators and their staff this week, as lawmakers return to finalize allocation of federal relief money. The case count following a large influx of intrastate travel will be instructive for city leaders going forward, Watt said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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