Dunleavy administration expands number of people who can gather, reopens bars and pools

Update — Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media

Alaska bars will be able to reopen on Friday, and other state businesses will be able to expand the number of customers they have on Friday morning, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Wednesday. 

In addition, up to 50 people can gather in social and religious groups. Businesses will be able to operate at  50 percent of their capacity- twice the level currently allowed. 

Dunleavy said that if the state continues to make progress, he and health officials will be able to announce the third phase in the state’s reopening as soon as next week. Dunleavy previously had said officials would be considering the changes over a two-week period, since the coronavirus can incubate for up to two weeks.

Dunleavy said the ability to reopen will depend on the actions Alaskans take to reduce the spread of the virus. 

“It’s really going to fall on the individual to make sure we don’t cause a spike in the number of cases,” he said, emphasizing the importance of staying away from others. 

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said some types of businesses couldn’t operate at  25 percent of capacity, and hoped that they would be able to open at 50 percent.

Bars and gyms will be able to operate at 25 percent of capacity. Gyms were only allowed to have outdoor classes in the first phase of reopening; now indoor classes are allowed. 

Dunleavy and Crum have said that the state would reopen businesses and gatherings over five phases. The first phase began on April 24th and allowed retail businesses to open at 25 percent of their capacity. 

Dunleavy has said he would base his decisions on data. Since he first announced the easing of state mandates, the number of new COVID-19 cases has trended down, while the daily test results have increased. Alaska has the third-fewest confirmed cases per capita among the states, after Hawaii and Montana. It has the 10th-most tests per capita. It has the lowest rate of positive tests. 

But the state also announced its first death from the disease since April 14, the 10th overall

Health officials have said they could again impose restrictions if there is a spike in cases. But Dunleavy has said he would want to target future restrictions more narrowly. 


Original story — Rashah McChesney, KTOO

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s latest COVID-19 press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about the state's COVID-19 response from the Atwood Building in Anchorage on March 20, 2020.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about the state’s COVID-19 response from the Atwood Building in Anchorage on March 20. Also pictured: Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, and an unidentified sign language interpreter. (Creative Commons photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

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.

Two weeks ago, Dunleavy announced the first phase of his “Reopen Alaska Responsibly” plan which is designed to slowly reopen parts of the state’s economy that were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At that time, restaurants that followed certain guidelines were allowed to offer dine-in services. In addition, retail stores; personal service providers like barbers, nail salons and hairdressers; and other nonessential businesses were be able to offer limited services.

During an April 21 press conference, 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.

Dunleavy also said the state will be using two-week time periods between phases as the virus can incubate for up to two weeks.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Dunleavy and Crum will announce the second part of that plan.

Zink will report the latest information on COVID-19 cases in the state.

State health officials reported Wednesday that a 10th Alaskan has died from the virus. Also, the state’s total number of coronavirus cases rose by one on Tuesday — Tok’s first case. That brings Alaska’s total number of cases to 372 with 284 recoveries. Nearly 24,000 tests have been administered.

Generally, Dunleavy, Zink and Crum share updates on the number of people in the state with confirmed cases, announce public health mandates, and explain the administration’s strategy and rationale.

They’ve imposed several 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.

You can watch Wednesday’s press conference live on this post, the governor’s Facebook or Livestream pages, or on 360 North television.

This preview was written by KTOO’s Rashah McChesney.

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