A sign seen near Twin Lakes on Wednesday encourages residents to wear cloth face coverings while in public. A social gathering tied to a recent cluster of cases of COVID-19 is unlikely to lead to punishment, but city officials are hopeful it may encourage people to be more cautious. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire

A sign seen near Twin Lakes on Wednesday encourages residents to wear cloth face coverings while in public. A social gathering tied to a recent cluster of cases of COVID-19 is unlikely to lead to punishment, but city officials are hopeful it may encourage people to be more cautious. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire

Event tied to case cluster unlikely to lead to punishments

Here’s why.

A social gathering that’s led to one of Juneau’s larger COVID-19 clusters doesn’t seem to have violated any local mandates, said the head of the city’s emergency operations center.

Incident Commander Mila Cosgrove, who is also City and Borough of Juneau’s deputy city manager, said in a phone interview that to the best of the city’s knowledge it does not seem that an Aug. 22 event broke the local face-covering mandate or the mitigation measure that as of Aug. 21 limited gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

The city’s emergency face-covering ordinance, which can be enforced with a fine not to exceed $25, includes an exception for eating or drinking while in public, and Cosgrove said the event almost certainly included food and drinks.

“Was it a strict violation of mandates? Probably not,” Cosgrove said.

[Community spread of the coronavirus hits new high]

Similarly, Cosgrove said despite public speculation, there is no proof an attendee or attendees at the gathering violated the state’s travel mandate that requires out-of-state travelers to submit a travel declaration and self-isolation plan, arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test and get a second COVID-19 test one to two weeks after arriving in the state.

Additionally, Cosgrove said Public Health has not traced the cluster back to any single index case, the first identified case in a group of related cases.

During a news briefing Thursday, state health officials referred a question about best practices for gatherings to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services webpage on large gatherings, sports and community events.

The state’s website advises people do not need to ask for the state’s permission to host a large gathering, but that event planners should develop a COVID-19 mitigation plan and consult the local community where they hope to hold an event.

Cosgrove said the city was not advised of the gathering ahead of time.

The state’s advisory document for reopening recommends people continue to maintain 6 feet of distance from people who are not household members and wear a cloth face covering in gatherings that include people from multiple households.

Cosgrove said it’s hoped the outcome of the event —a cluster of cases numbering in the 30s, closing bars to indoor business, tighter restrictions on restaurants and hundreds of COVID-19 tests —provides a teachable moment.

“It’s impacted a lot of people,” Cosgrove said. “It’s closed businesses. It’s impacted people’s health. We just have to be cautious.”

She also said that while the recent spike in cases has directly impacted bars, it is not the city’s intent to single out or condemn the alcoholic beverage service industry.

“It just happens to be that’s where the risk is right now,” Cosgrove said.

She also said any sort of large gathering presents a risk of spreading COVID-19.

“It could equally have been a big sporting event or a revival with multiple congregations,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said while some of the city’s larger clusters, such as cases among Kensington Gold Mine and Alaska Glacier Seafoods Inc. employees — have been connected to critical infrastructure industries, there have also been clusters connected to personal gatherings such as weddings, graduations and funerals. Moments when people tend to let their guard down.

“It’s horrible, really,” Cosgrove said. “The things that lift us up and give us joy in these uncertain times are also the things that make us sick.”

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

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A Shell station in Anchorage. (Nathaniel Herz/Northern Journal)
Shell abandons North Slope oil leases, raising questions about the industry’s future in Alaska

Experts say some of the state’s hard-to-tap oil prospects are becoming less attractive.

Tom Abbas discusses the hose his boat needs as shop owner and vintage halibut jacket provider Jim Geraghty shows his customer the options. Racks of dry-cleaned woolen jackets hang among the marine supply aisles in Gerahgty’s Lemon Creek business. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Coats of many colors: Halibut jackets make a big splash again

“Pre-owned” wool garments from many decades ago being tracked down for resale by Juneau marine shop.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, May 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Columbia state ferry sails through Lynn Canal on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Alex McCarthy / Juneau Empire file photo)
Columbia ferry out of service until end of the year

51-year-old ship has been out of service since November; corrosion in fire system cited for delay.

Most Read