City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center is raising the community’s risk level amid rising case rates of COVID-19.
It is the first change to the community risk level, which has been at “Level 1b-Minimal” since May, in months. Both the 7-day and 14-day case rates fall under the “very high” alert category under the city’s risk metrics, and community spread is happening at an increased rate, the city said in a news release. As of Thursday afternoon, CBJ reported 80 active cases of COVID-19.
“We want to be super cautious,” said Mila Cosgrove, deputy city manager who heads Juneau’s EOC.
Cosgrove said local officials aren’t yet certain, since sequencing takes time, but it is thought the uptick in cases is caused by the delta variant, a more contagious type of COVID-19 first detected in India. State health officials on Tuesday said the variant is the dominant circulating strain of COVID-19 in the state. It is also the dominant variant in the U.S.
Cosgrove said the local emergency operations center has been monitoring climbing cases in Sitka, and local officials hope an increased risk level and returning mitigation measures can help avoid a scenario in which Juneau sees hundreds of active cases.
Mitigation measures that go into effect as of noon on Friday include:
■ Indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people with masks required unless a COVID-19 mitigation plan is submitted and approved by the emergency operations center. Outdoor gatherings are recommended.
■ Indoor service at bars will be capped at 50%.
■ Gyms will be capped at 50% capacity, too.
■ Restaurants are encouraged to reduce capacity to ensure physical distancing. Delivery and curbside pickup are encouraged.
■ Personal service businesses will have to require appointments and not have waiting areas.
■ People who aren’t fully vaccinated will be required to wear masks indoors in public areas and outdoors at crowded events. Fully vaccinated people are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
■ People, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks in city facilities, on board city buses, in the Juneau International Airport, in school district buildings and at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
■ Travelers are encouraged to take either a pre-travel test or a free COVID-19 airport test. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid indoor public areas and crowded locations until they get test results.
Cosgrove said vaccination remains the most effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and noted Juneau’s relatively high rates of vaccination — over 68% of Juneau’s total population and nearly 80% of the capital city’s total population have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, studies suggest currently authorized vaccines work on variants.
While vaccines do not completely eliminate the risk of catching COVID-19, there is mounting evidence vaccination greatly reduces the risk of severe illness or death, the Associated Press reported.
As of Thursday, no COVID-19 positive patients were hospitalized in Juneau, Cosgrove said. Maintaining health care facility capacity is important, she said, because hospitals to the north and south of Juneau are seeing increased demand for services that could make it “problematic” to get someone out of town for treatment.
“For the people who have taken the steps to become fully vaccinated, they’ve done the best thing they can to protect themselves, their friends and their community,” Cosgrove said.
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.