Juneau suspends drinking in bars again as COVID-19 cases spike

The Triangle Club Bar and a handful of other bars and restaurants in Juneau are temporarily closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among bar workers. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
The Triangle Club Bar and a handful of other bars and restaurants in Juneau are temporarily closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among bar workers. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Update | 9:25 p.m.

Friday night ended up being last call for Juneauites for the next two weeks. 

In an evening emergency public health order, city officials raised the community alert level and mandated that all bars in Juneau must close to indoor service starting Saturday at noon.

The move comes after local health officials reported that two more people linked to bar activity had tested positive for COVID-19 by Friday. So far at least 13 people have gotten sick after a single, large social gathering that many bartenders in town attended in late August.

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove wrote in an email that bars that have outdoor seating can still serve customers, but that seating has to allow for social distancing. According to the order, bars can still do curbside and delivery service. 

The order also requires restaurants to drop to 50 percent of indoor capacity and only to accept people who have made reservations in advance. 

Several bars and restaurants in Juneau had already closed down this week due to COVID-19 exposure. 

City officials urged anyone who has visited a bar in the last two weeks to get tested for COVID-19 this week, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

A pop-up COVID-19 testing center at Centennial Hall, targeted specifically to people who have been going to bars, will be  will be open through the weekend. It opened Friday and by mid-afternoon, Cosgrove said 147 people had been tested. 

The emergency order is in effect for 15 days.

 

Original story

Juneau public health officials reported Friday that two more people linked to bar activity had tested positive for COVID-19. So far at least 13 people have gotten sick after a single, large social gathering that many bartenders in town attended in late August. 

City officials set up a pop-up COVID-19 testing center at Centennial Hall that will be open through the weekend. 

They urged anyone who has been to any bar in Juneau in the last two weeks — between August 29th and now — to get tested, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said that by 1 p.m. on Friday, 147 people had been tested at the pop-up center. 

“This morning, there a was bit of a line up of cars right at 9 a.m. They processed those through as quickly as possible. After that it kept steady but I don’t think they had long lines,” Cosgrove said. 

Based on those numbers, she said they expect to see 250-300 people a day at the pop-up testing center, but it could slow down by the end of the weekend. 

The two new cases were part of 11 total among residents of Juneau that city officials identified on Friday. 

Cosgrove said two of those cases are not new.

“They’re actually from Juneau residents who tested positive while they were out of the state,” she said. 

And, she said the bar scene isn’t the only thing driving case counts up. 

“There are several things going on in the background,” Cosgrove said. “We also have several large household family groupings where there’s been a positive member in the household who has then passed COVID to other members of the household.”

But in those cases, she said there’s lower overall risk to the community because those families are quarantined and isolated. 

Cosgrove said the city expects to start seeing results from its broader testing efforts beginning on Saturday. But city health officials aren’t ready to raise the alert level yet. 

She said they’re watching the numbers closely, but emphasized that Juneau residents are responsible for their own safety. 

“I would encourage people to remain just personally vigilant and cautious about how they’re choosing to spend their time,” she said. “Be cautious for just a few days, while we take the time to sort this out.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that at least 3 people that have been sickened with COVID-19 have been traced to a single late-August gathering.  That figure is 13. 

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