A sign downtown encourages residents to wear a face covering while in public spaces. While some mitigation measures have relaxed, face coverings remain required when inside public spaces where social distancing is difficult. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

A sign downtown encourages residents to wear a face covering while in public spaces. While some mitigation measures have relaxed, face coverings remain required when inside public spaces where social distancing is difficult. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

City relaxes bar, restaurant restrictions but encourages caution

The announcement was made Tuesday.

Bars can immediately reopen for indoor service and restaurants can operate at full capacity, City and Borough of Juneau announced on Tuesday.

The relaxation of COVID-19 mitigation measures comes as the city’s emergency operations center lowered Juneau’s overall community risk to Level 2. The risk level, which is based on multiple metrics tracked by the city, had been at Level 3 as recently as yesterday, according to a situational update from the emergency operations center, and bars had been closed to indoor service since Sept. 12 following an uptick in local COVID-19 cases.

“Suffice it to say, overall our numbers are dropping, which is a great thing, including our 14-day case and seven-day case numbers,” said EOC incident commander Mila Cosgrove during a weekly COVID-19 briefing.

Cosgrove, who is also City and Borough of Juneau’s deputy city manager, said during the briefing that Juneau’s bars had complied with the closure.

While she and emergency operations center planning section chief Robert Barr said the city’s numbers have improved, they cautioned there is still risk of exposure to COVID-19 and community spread in Juneau.

“It’s not the time to let your guard down,” Cosgrove said.

Barr and Cosgrove said the city’s relatively low case count —Juneau reported three cases on Tuesday, 120 were reported statewide —are a sign of the effectiveness of mitigation efforts by the city and residents as individuals.

[Public Market canceled due to pandemic]

“I think we’re not seeing case count because the community is doing the right things,” Cosgrove said.

While the step down in risk level relaxes some mitigation measures, the city said in a news release indoor gatherings are still limited to 50 or fewer people unless a COVID-19 mitigation plan has been submitted, face coverings are still required when inside public areas where 6 feet of social distancing can’t be maintained, personal services such as salons are still available by appointment only and gyms are limited to 50% capacity. Additionally, while not required, restaurants are strongly encouraged to reduce capacity and take reservations to reduce spread and enable contact tracing.

Of Juneau’s three newly reported COVID-19 cases, Public Health attributes two of the new cases to close contact with a known case of COVID-19, and the third case is under investigation, according to the city.

The city also shared news regarding over 100 negative tests.

Cosgrove and Barr said after the city conducted a round of COVID-19 testing among people aided by Glory Hall, AWARE and Housing First, all 102 tests returned returned negative results.

The testing among Juneau’s vulnerable population was done after two residents without permanent housing tested positive for COVID-19, according to the city. Cosgrove said she expects more testing will be done in the future, but for now, it’s good news.

“Right now, it’s a big sigh of relief with those test results coming back,” Cosgrove said.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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