City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members expressed mixed feelings for the governor’s latest round of restriction rollbacks.
For now, there’s confidence the city and the state have the ability to track and contain the spread of COVID-19, but multiple Assembly members expressed deep concern about the possible return of interstate travel.
Tuesday afternoon, the governor’s office announced in-state travel to communities on the state’s road system and Alaska Marine Highway was “permitted for all purposes.”
At a Monday press conference, Dunleavy said that a decision about lifting or extending the required 14-day quarantine after traveling to the state would come Friday.
“I’m as comfortable with it as I could get, which is not that comfortable,” said Deputy Mayor Maria Gladziszewski Monday, at a virtual Assembly meeting.
The Assembly was again joined Monday night by Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, who told members adequate screening for the disease would be essential for safely reopening. If the city could come up with a plan for screening travelers, she said the Department of Health and Social Services could potentially aid in that effort.
“We’re here to partner with communities with what they want to set up. We are open to ideas and proposals,” Zink said. “If there’s a plan that your community wants to put forward in a way that you would see DHSS helping to support, we are always open to those.”
A community needs to go two incubation cycles, in this case 28 days, before a disease can be considered out of a community, Zink said.
“Juneau is not there yet,” she said.
At the time of the meeting, Juneau last reported a new case of Covid-19 on April 22, but on Tuesday, CBJ announced the state confirmed two new COVID-19 cases in Juneau, In a press release CBJ said, “the two new cases in Juneau are associated with the pocket of cases previously reported at Lemon Creek Correctional Center.”
The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
While some Assembly members have concerns with provisions of the governor’s health mandates such as allowing large gatherings, they have so far accepted most of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plan, with some reservations.
“Our greatest asset right now is that it’s difficult to get here,” said Assembly member Rob Edwardson.
Edwardson has said any sort of reopening is a bad idea, and that much more testing is needed before it can be done safely.
”As far as public policy decisions, I think we need to think about travel restrictions and the quarantine,” Edwardson said, adding the lack of information from the governor’s office about scheduling was adding frustration to the decision-making process.
“I think it would be useful to have more insight into what the state is discussing,” he said. “We really need to know what direction they’re going in and when they plan on going there so we can make our decisions. “
The idea of travel restrictions didn’t get much traction, Assembly member Loren Jones said there might even be “constitutional issues,” but somehow mitigating the potential spread of the virus from out of state travelers was something several members mentioned.
Assembly member Wade Bryson said he thought mandates were the wrong way to go, and he said asking people to participate would be more effective than legal orders.
“We’re only talking about one level of travel restrictions, it’s not like we’re bringing the cruise ships back,” Bryson said. “I think that if we use community buy-in we are going to have better community response.”