Dunleavy administration announces new travel mandate offering testing as alternative to quarantine

UpdateAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media

State leaders said travelers to Alaska who take a test before or at their arrival should take a second test seven to 14 days later under the revised state mandate that goes into effect on Saturday. 

The revised mandate, released on Wednesday, said those coming into the state should minimize their contact with others until they have the results from the second test. 

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said taking one test isn’t the equivalent of the 14-day self-quarantine that the state has required since late March. 

“We’re really trying to minimize that risk as much as possible to Alaskans, while opening up as much as we can,” Zink said. 

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska's Chief Medical Officer, watches Gov. Mike Dunleavy during a press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic on April 2, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Creative Commons photo courtesy Alaska Governor's Office)
Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, watches Gov. Mike Dunleavy during a press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic on April 2, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Creative Commons photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

Zink said a test given seven days after infection will identify roughly 90 percent of cases, while a test given 14 days later will identify roughly 96 percent. She noted that Vermont is using a seven-day quarantine with a test at the end for out-of-state travelers, while Hawaii continues to use a 14-day quarantine. 

Travelers will be given a voucher they can use at testing sites. Zink said the state is working to identify which sites will be able to take the vouchers.  

The mandate applies to all travel from outside of the state, including Alaskans returning home.  Gov. Mike Dunleavy said his administration will actively seek feedback as he evaluates how to revise the mandate in the future. 

“We’re going to want to hear from you as travelers, we’re going to want to hear from you as businesses, entities, what’s working, what’s not,” he said. “Nothing is foolproof in this pandemic.”

Dunleavy said he’s trying to strike a balance. He noted that some people in the state want to continue with 14-day quarantines, while others don’t want any travel restrictions.

Dunleavy emphasized that the state is relying on people to work together to minimize the spread of the virus. 

“We have a duty — I should say — to each other to try and not impact each other with this virus, if we can,” he said. 

Under the revised mandate, out-of-state travelers can choose between two alternatives to a 14-day quarantine: 

  • either have a negative result from a test taken within 72 hours of flying, or 
  • combine a negative result from a test taken within five days before flying with a second test on arrival. 

Travelers without a test can get a test on arrival, but they must self-quarantine until they have the results. 

Capital City Fire/Rescue Capt. Roy Johnston talks to people arriving at Juneau International Airport on Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Juneau, Alaska.
Capital City Fire/Rescue Capt. Roy Johnston talks to people arriving at Juneau International Airport on Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Travelers will be required to fill out a declaration form regarding testing when they’re flying to the state. There will be screeners at the Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan airports to collect the forms and offer the tests and vouchers.  Tests also will be given in Wrangell, Petersburg and Gustavus, state Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said. 

Zink said that if there’s a large increase in the number of cases inside the state that stressed the state’s testing capacity, the state could stop offering tests at the airports. 

When asked whether he would consider mandating the use of face masks in places where social distancing is difficult, Dunleavy said the state would continue to rely on Alaskans to “do the right thing.”

“The big thing I would ask when it comes to masks, is simply this: If you see somebody wearing a mask and you don’t want to wear a mask, give them a thumbs up,” he said. “If you see somebody not wearing a mask and you’re wearing a mask, they’re your fellow Alaskan. And nobody’s trying to hurt each other.  We’re all trying to do the right thing in a very difficult situation.”   

He added that mask wearing is about protecting others, and that people don’t know the health conditions of other people they encounter, or that of their family members. 

Original story

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

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, 2020. 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, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink will announces changes to a mandate covering interstate travel.

The state health mandate that requires a 14-day quarantine for people who arrive from out-of-state  expires on June 5 and starting that day, visitors and Alaskans returning to the state will be asked to take a test within 72 hours of boarding an Alaska-bound flight.

Members of the Dunleavy administration have been holding media briefings regularly 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 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 today’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.

This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the revision goes into effect on Saturday. 

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