Anchorage shuts down bars, restaurants for indoor service

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz speaks at a July 31, 2020 press conference (Screenshot from Mayor Berkowitz Facebook)

At a press conference on Friday, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced a new emergency order closing restaurants and breweries to indoor service and limiting bars and nightclubs to takeout or delivery.

Emergency Order 15 also limits indoor gatherings to 15 people and outdoor gatherings with food and drinks to 25 people. Outdoor gatherings without food and drinks are limited to 50 people.

Berkowitz said that bars and restaurants were “unfortunately bearing the brunt of what’s going on right now.” He acknowledged that closures have disproportionately affected the hospitality industry but said the restrictions were necessary because bars and restaurants have been major transmission sites for COVID-19.

The order goes into effect on Monday, August 3 at 8 a.m. and will last for four weeks.

“By waiting for four weeks, we should see be able to judge whether these measures are helping to reduce transmission or whether we need to do additional steps,” Anchorage Health Department medical officer Dr. Bruce Chandler said on Friday.

Berkowitz also extended the city’s mask order and added that masks will now also be required for all indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The order encourages retail and other businesses to reduce public interaction through telephone or online ordering and curbside pickup and delivery. Gyms and other entertainment facilities remain under Emergency Order 14, which requires them to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Emergency Order 15 also requires people to work from home if that can be done without “significantly impeding business operations.”

As with other recent orders, Berkowitz said the city will respond to complaints of non-compliance by educating businesses about new measures. He said education has been largely effective as an enforcement method.

The mayor indicated the municipality may step in to provide assistance for out-of-work businesses and employees, but he said they are waiting to see what happens at the federal level.

COVID-19 cases continued to surge over the last week. Anchorage had 494 new cases, up from 187 the week before.

Department of Health Director Natasha Pineda said the city’s public health capacity remains at a “red light” level, the most urgent level on the city’s scale for measuring response capability. Health care capacity is still at a “yellow light,” but city officials warn that current trends indicate Anchorage could run out of ICU beds by September 17.

This week the city opened five new testing sites spread around town. Bill Falsey, incident commander of the city’s emergency operations, said all five are free and don’t require a doctor’s referral.

“We’re encouraging anyone with even mild symptoms, or who thinks they may have been exposed, to go to those sites to get covid tested. We’ll also test people who are asymptomatic if they feel like they have been exposed,” he said.

The new testing locations are ChangePoint Church, Fairview Community Recreation Center, Anchorage Church of Christ, Muldoon Community Assembly and Z.J. Loussac Library. All of the sites accept drive-through and walk-up patients, and will be open Mondays, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Fridays, 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; and Saturdays, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

Site notifications
Update notification options
Subscribe to notifications