Mindy Roggenkamp, co-owner of Franklin Street Barbers, cuts hair while wearing her personal protective equipment on Friday, April 24, 2020. She already has reservations booked two weeks ahead, but under the new regulations only one barber can be working in their shop at a time. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Mindy Roggenkamp, co-owner of Franklin Street Barbers, cuts hair while wearing her personal protective equipment on Friday, April 24, 2020. She already has reservations booked two weeks ahead, but under the new regulations only one barber can be working in their shop at a time. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

City plotting its own course forward as state eases off restrictions

Some businesses are easing open as the state throttles back regulations.

As the state moves to reopen a variety of businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, and some personal service establishments, the City and Borough of Juneau wants to hear from and talk to residents.

“We’re just trying to help people, which is what has always been the job, but even more so now,” said Assembly member Greg Smith in a phone interview. “My sense from the Assembly last night is that things moved really quickly. We just need a little time to process if we want to do anything different than the governor’s mandate.”

The state’s mandate allows a clearly delineated set of businesses including restaurants, retail shops, personal services, public and non-public facing businesses, fishing charters, childcare centers, day camps and gyms with outdoor space to reopen.

“The governor has given a small number of businesses the opportunity to reopen,” said City Manager Rorie Watt. “On Monday, the Assembly is going to talk about what they think.”

Friday, some Juneau businesses too advantage of the opportunity.

Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs was adamant about the need for public input as Juneau considers how to shoot the rapids of easing off COVID-19-based restrictions.

“We’re putting it on people’s radar that we’re discussing it Monday,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “And if you have strong feelings, we’d love to hear from you.”

Jumping the gun?

“I know some of us are concerned about the personal services. Salons, hair, nails,” said Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, a member of the Assembly. “It seems like an unusual candidate to go in Phase 1.”

Hughes-Skandijs said that Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, had explained the rationale behind reopening a number of personal-service industries such as salons and haircutters, suggesting that professionals with their access to their tools and their training were less likely to spread disease than people getting haircuts or other cosmetic treatments from an unlicensed source.

“It’s tough. We’re all nervous about it,” Smith said. “It’s uncertain what’s gonna happen with the infection rates. This month we’ve learned a lot about the virus, we’ve got a lot of PPE, the hospital has been built up, testing has ramped up.”

Hughes-Skandijs, Smith and Watt all mentioned gatherings of 20 as being another potential point of concern, but had faith in the state government and would continue to work in partnership with them as best they could.

“Alaska looks so different from community to community, and trying to implement something flat across the state doesn’t make sense,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “We want to work with the governor. We’re in a partnership, not a challenge.”

Even as stores are eased open, people should absolutely continue to follow the best practices to minimize the spread of the infection, Smith said.

“Even if things are starting to open up, realize that there are people at major risk for serious health problems,” Smith said. “Continue to guard those people.”

The quick action of Juneau residents is what saved it from being an epidemic epicenter, Hughes-Skandijs said.

“Don’t lose sight of the fact that our numbers are good because of your actions,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “Wear a mask. This is going to make everything go smoother and faster. Keep social distancing. Keep washing your hands.”

Got concerns?

Send them directly to the Assembly here. Boroughassembly@juneau.org

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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