Signage displayed downtown encourages people to wear face coverings. City officials asked for conscientiousness and residents to take precautions to limit spread of COVID-19 amid the implementation of new spread mitigation measures that include limiting the capacity of bars and gyms and the size of social gatherings. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Signage displayed downtown encourages people to wear face coverings. City officials asked for conscientiousness and residents to take precautions to limit spread of COVID-19 amid the implementation of new spread mitigation measures that include limiting the capacity of bars and gyms and the size of social gatherings. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Juneau caps bars, gyms at half capacity

Increase in community spread drove the measures

An upward trend in community spread of COVID-19 was behind a city decision to restrict bars and gyms to half capacity alongside restricting gatherings to 50 people or less, said the head of Juneau’s emergency operations center.

“Our case rate is actually dropping, but the number of community spread cases is increasing just a little bit,” said Mila Cosgrove, head of the City and Borough of Juneau’s EOC, in a phone interview. “We want to be cautious, and we want to try to drive the areas where we feel people could be potentially exposed.”

Large gatherings, such as family affairs and church services, are also capped to 50 unless they work with CBJ to implement a mitigation plan.

“We don’t want to close business. We don’t want to go to any type of a hunker-down situation again. It’s really those individual actions that make a difference,” Cosgrove said. “It’s people to people that make the disease spread. I appreciate everyone’s efforts.”

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In many cases, organizations that continue to gather in person already have effective mitigation plans in place, Cosgrove said.

“I do think we spent a good chunk of the emergency in that kind of minimal category and I hope we get back there,” Cosgrove said referencing the overall community risk level. “Anchorage had huge case counts, so they really ratcheted back and their numbers plummeted.”

Outbreaks at the Kensington Mine and Alaska Glacier Seafood pushed total numbers up, but those were contained rapidly, Cosgrove said, and numbers are dropping again.

“We had several medium-moderate outbreaks associated with large family clusters,” Cosgrove said. “We are seeing a little community spread.”

City Manager Rorie Watt appealed to affected businesses to implement the changes and encouraged mask use to limit community spread in Juneau in a news release concerning the changes being implemented. However who the mandates apply to and who will actually be affected may not be one in the same.

“It doesn’t affect us at all. I wish it did. Our capacity is 178 people in the gym,”said Joe Parrish,managing partner at Pavitt Health and Fitness, in a phone interview. “We’re running at about 60% capacity of where we’d normally be this time of year,which is way less than half capacity for this building.”

Pavitt made changes, including capping workout class sizes and mandating 10-foot separation on the premises to contain any possible spread, Parrish said. They also rented out exercise bikes and pushed some workout classes to livestreaming to allow people to work out at home. There is no more equipment available to rent, Parrish side. The gym has had to restructure its model to deal with the new realities of the coronavirus.

“The city has made their small business emergency grants and loans available to us. We have benefited immensely from those loans and grants. It has kept our doors open. We’re hanging in there, but it has absolutely been because of those loans,” Parrish said. “We are trending in the right direction. We’ve restrategized our gym strategy. We’ve said no commitment, no penalties, no enrollment fee. And that has resonated pretty well with people.”

Cosgrove said that she hopes the measures will be effective and check the upward trend of community cases, and no further action will be required. Wearing masks, paying attention, and looking out for others are all the biggest parts of arresting the spread of the coronavirus, Cosgrove said. CBJ will continue to monitor the outbreaks and trends, Cosgrove said, modifying its mandates as the situation changes. The EOC will be looking at both the numbers and vectors of the sickness- an outbreak in workers in the same space is driven by different pressures than many people getting infected through community spread, for example.

“I personally hope that we never get to Level 3,” Cosgrove said. “The masking, the community measures and people’s attention and actions will keep us in the moderate and back to the minimal, I hope.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or lockett@juneauempire.com.

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