Wendy Wallers administers the coronavirus vaccine to Christina MacDougall during a clinic at Centennial Hall on Feb. 11, 2021. The City and Borough of Juneau lowered the risk level for the coronavirus to Level 1 on Feb. 17, the lowest since the system was put in place. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Wendy Wallers administers the coronavirus vaccine to Christina MacDougall during a clinic at Centennial Hall on Feb. 11, 2021. The City and Borough of Juneau lowered the risk level for the coronavirus to Level 1 on Feb. 17, the lowest since the system was put in place. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau lowers community risk level

The risk level is the lowest it’s been since the risk system was put in place.

This article has been updated to reflect the risk level is Level 1 —Minimal, not moderate. The Juneau Empire regrets this error.

The City and Borough of Juneau lowered its local coronavirus risk level to Level 1 — Minimal, the lowest it’s been since the system was approved, said a city spokesperson

“Since the mitigation strategies were approved, we’ve never been at Level 1,” said CBJ spokesperson Lisa Phu in a phone interview. “When the system was created, we were at Level 2.”

Hard work and adherence to mitigation measures helped drive case rates down, said deputy city manager and head of the emergency operations center Mila Cosgrove in a phone interview.

“I think people are taking it seriously. We know masking works. We know people have been exposed, but they were masked and they didn’t contract it,” Cosgrove said. “I think their efforts are paying off.”

While instances of the virus are low right now, failure to continue to mitigation strategies could lead to a dangerous growth rate, Cosgrove said.

“We’ve lowered the risk level to minimal because we’re not seeing much case activity right now. But that could change really fast if we don’t stay vigilant,” Cosgrove said. “If people really relax their guard, it could escalate quickly.”

Continued vaccination will also help reduce the threat the virus poses, Cosgrove said.

“One thing we know about the vaccines is the efficacy is very very high,” Cosgrove said. “It’s not 100%, but 95% is very, very high.”

The lowered risk level has some implications for business, Cosgrove said, though some things — masks — won’t change.

“Bars can be open. They don’t have a capacity limit, but they have a social distancing limit,” Cosgrove said. “People still need to mask up in bars and gyms and restaurants. If they’re not actively eating or drinking they still need to be wearing masks.”

Under the previous risk level, bars and gyms were limited to half capacity and indoor gatherings were limited to 50 people.

While Juneau and Southeast Alaska in general have thelowest rate of the coronavirus in Alaska, the biggest threats come from without and not within, Cosgrove said.

“You’re doing a good job. Keep doing that good job. The thing that we’re viewing cautiously is that strain of COVID that transmits more aggressively. We don’t think it’s in the city right now. We do know it’s north and south of us,” Cosgrove said. “If people could be really cautious and careful around travel, that’s one of the gateways into a quickly escalating caseload.”

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

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