Juneau to hold pop-up COVID-19 testing for people who have been going to bars

People, masked and unmasked, wander through downtown on Saturday, September 5, 2020 in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
People, masked and unmasked, wander through downtown on September 5, in Juneau. The two bars pictured, The Narrows and The Triangle have temporarily closed after an outbreak among bar workers in town. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

On Wednesday, appointments for Juneau’s drive-through COVID-19 testing site got booked up, and its phone hotline was busy for much of the day. That, after city officials recommended that many bar patrons — even those without symptoms — get tested, because of an outbreak affecting several bar workers.

The outbreak is related to a single event. City Manager Rorie Watt initially overstated the number of cases linked to it. Officials on Wednesday said at least 9 cases were linked to the large gathering, not 19.

The city is holding a pop-up testing event this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Hall. Testing will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., specifically for people who have visited bars recently.

The city also announced narrower criteria for which bar-goers should test.

Here’s the city’s latest guidance:

The date range is a moving target as days pass. If you’re not experiencing symptoms and it has been 14 days since you socialized at a bar, you don’t need to get tested. That means, as of Sept. 9, if you have no symptoms and you last socialized at a bar before Aug. 27, you don’t need to get tested.

If it has been 10-14 days since you visited a bar and you have no symptoms and you can practice strict social distancing until day 14, you don’t need to get tested (read what strict social distancing means here; scroll down a bit).

By ‘socialized,’ CBJ means you were in close proximity to other people not in your household, weren’t always wearing a mask, others near you weren’t always wearing a mask, and you were in that environment for an extended period of time (more than 15 minutes).

City officials say appointments are not necessary, but to expect to wait.

SEARHC also offers free tests on weekends for people without symptoms at its Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau, as well as at other sites around Southeast Alaska. Tests may also be available through your regular doctor’s office.

Meanwhile, the Red Dog Saloon announced its temporary closure as did the restaurant Salt, joining Devil’s Club Brewing Company, The Triangle, The Narrows and the Alaskan.

Squirez had closed Saturday. It announced it was reopening Wednesday afternoon.

Tracy LaBarge owns Salt, which had only recently reopened since the initial shutdown. Then one of her employees tested positive, which she thinks was related to this outbreak.

“We do have to take precautions, because, you know, our businesses are already suffering enough,” she said. “And to have to close again after only being open for 10 days? Sucks.”

She said the decision itself was straightforward.

“I feel like we didn’t have a choice,” LaBarge said. “It was the safest thing to do, for the employees and for, you know, the public. We don’t want to be the cause of somebody getting really sick.”

She said it’s a good wake up call. She said she’ll start requiring her employees to be more serious about their social habits.

As of Wednesday, the city’s risk level and community restrictions remain in the moderate category.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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