Update — Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Tuesday that restaurants and other retail businesses can begin offering more services on Friday, if they follow certain health guidelines.
Anchorage businesses will be opening three days later, on Monday, according to Dunleavy.
Restaurants that follow the guidelines can offer dine-in services. In addition, retail stores; personal service providers like barbers, nail salons and hairdressers; and other nonessential businesses will be able to offer limited services.
“For those that have been chomping at the bit to get things open … we’re headed there,” Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy described more details about the process for reopening businesses in the state.
Dunleavy said there are going to be five phases to the economic reopening. Different businesses will fall into different phases, which will be detailed on a state website.
“We never thought that we could stop the virus from coming here,” he said, but the state wanted to prevent it from overwhelming the health care system.
In the phase starting on Friday, businesses that reopen will have to stay below 25% of their capacity.
Fishing charters can begin taking members of the same household. Trips with people from more than one household will be limited to 25% of a boat’s capacity during the first phase.
State Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said bars, theaters, bowling alleys and bingo halls will remain closed in the first phase. Gyms also will remain closed, but outdoor fitness classes and recreation groups of fewer than 20 people can meet, as long as people stay 10 feet apart.
Other groups of less than 20 can meet for religious and other activities, as long as people from different households stay six feet apart.
The governor said the state will be closely watching the number of cases, and will use two-week time periods. He noted that the virus can incubate for up to two weeks, and he added that the state will be examining data over a two-week period.
The second phase in reopening businesses is tentatively scheduled for May 8.
“We thought our numbers would be much higher, that hundreds of thousands of Alaskans would be infected,” Dunleavy said, adding that could still happen.
The state mandate limiting international travel and travel from other states was extended until May 19. The mandates on maintaining social distancing and restricting travel inside Alaska were extended indefinitely.
Dunleavy and state health officials have said they are able to reopen parts of the economy because Alaska has had a relatively low number of cases of the virus. The number of new and active cases have been trending down.
Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said there are 119 testing sites around the state.
This story has been updated.
Original story — Rashah McChesney, KTOO
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s latest COVID-19 press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m.
The governor, Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink have been holding these briefings almost daily since March 10.
They’ve shared updates on the number of people in the state with confirmed cases, announced public health mandates and explained the administration’s strategy and rationale.
They’ve imposed numerous public health mandates that have reshaped daily life across Alaska to combat the spread of the virus. Those mandates and other Alaska-specific COVID-19 resources and information are available at coronavirus.alaska.gov.
And, even though more than $992 million was pumped into businesses from federal aid programs, there are still thousands of Alaskans out of work.
While some are pushing for Dunleavy’s administration to reopen the economy, many are urging caution. Public health experts say it will take months to slowly reopen Alaska’s economy without inviting serious risks.
During Monday’s press conference, Dunleavy outlined the steps he plans to take to open certain businesses, like hair and nail salons, restaurants and retail businesses, but with added protocols to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
He said the state may begin to relax regulations as early as next week. Meanwhile, Anchorage has released its own roadmap to reopen.
State health officials announced that eight more Alaskans had been diagnosed with COVID-19 by the end of the day on Monday, bringing the total to 329. Four of the Alaskans are from Anchorage, two are from Juneau, one is from Eagle River and one is from Ketchikan.
There were seven more recoveries reported Monday. In total, about 51% of Alaskans (168) have recovered from the disease so far. The total number of deaths and hospitalizations has not changed: Thirty-six Alaskans have been hospitalized with the disease, and nine have died — two of them died out of state. More than 11,000 tests have been administered.
The headline for this story has been updated.