While pools throughout the state will be allowed to reopen beginning Friday, City and Borough of Juneau’s Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool won’t be among them. CBJ Assembly members said local reopening efforts will follow a Monday meeting with Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

While pools throughout the state will be allowed to reopen beginning Friday, City and Borough of Juneau’s Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool won’t be among them. CBJ Assembly members said local reopening efforts will follow a Monday meeting with Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Wary but accepting, city leaders mull reopening

Local reopening decisions on hold until after Monday meeting

City officials are mostly onboard with the mandates for the next phase of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reopening plan, but there are some concerns with the speed at which it’s happening.

“My big concern was when it only gave us a couple days notice,” City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Loren Jones said in a phone interview. “There’s 7-14 days before you know the effect of the decision you made. We’re going to be in Phase 2 in less than 14 days.”

Studies have shown the incubation period for COVID-19 to be between five and 14 days and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set guidelines recommending anyone traveling internationally should quarantine for 14 days at their final destination.

Jones is concerned the city and state have insufficient capacity to track cases as the state starts to open. Those concerns particularly apply to the potential return of out-of-state travelers.

“The biggest concern will be if he makes any changes to the interstate travel,” Jones said. “Public sentiment is, from the emails that the Assembly’s been getting, keep a damper on a lot of people coming into the community.”

Juneau’s last state-confirmed COVID-19 case was April 22, according to city data, and the total case count stands at 27, which is reassuring Mayor Beth Weldon said, but she has some issues with gatherings and bars opening.

[City leaders wait for next phase of reopening]

“I’m OK with most of it, we’ve got good metrics,” Weldon said. “There will probably be some discussion of crowds of up to 50 and I don’t know how (the Assembly) is going to feel about the bars.”

Even though the governor’s plan allows for the reopening of libraries, museums and swimming pools, Weldon said Juneau is not yet ready to open those city-run services.

City Manager Rorie Watt said many library employees have had their hours canceled and others had been redeployed in other departments. The Dimond Park pool was currently under maintenance, according to Watt, and would not be reopening.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink will join the Assembly’s Monday meeting to answer questions about Alaska’s health care capacity.

“(Dunleavy) did propose a lot more change than we expected,” Watt said. “Super glad we have Dr. Zink on for Monday to talk through that rationale.”

Zink has spoken to the Juneau Assembly before and her “apparent ‘on-top-of-it-ness” as Deputy Mayor Maria Gladziszewski previously described it to the Empire, had eased Assembly members’ concerns.

One Assembly member, however, said the whole reopening is happening too soon, and should probably be stopped.

“Medical professionals didn’t think bars should reopen,” said Assembly member Rob Edwardson. “There’s still a rise of the total numbers in the U.S., the number of deaths is rising, there’s still the ability to travel to Juneau.”

Edwardson said he accepts the Assembly is mostly going along with the governor but maintains the state and the nation don’t have enough testing in place.

“There needs to be a national, statewide and a Juneau plan to conduct the types of testing that’s needed in order to isolate and protect people, to have some kind of assurance,” he said.

For the business owners who are eager to get back to work, Edwardson said he had hoped the Assembly would have pursued small business loans and rent forgiveness before reopening.

All the city leaders who spoke to the Empire urged diligence and caution when reopening, asking people to continue following health guidelines to limit any potential spread.

“We’ve done a great job as a community we just don’t want to open the flood gates,” Weldon said.

The Assembly’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Monday. Assembly members will also be meeting with Dr. Zink earlier Monday, at 1 p.m. Both meetings are open for the public to listen to. More information can be found on the city’s website, https://beta.juneau.org/assembly/assembly-calendar.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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