Bars in Juneau closed for indoor service on Saturday, Sept. 12th, following a spike in residents testing positive for COVID-19.
The emergency order issued by the City and Borough of Juneau gave bars that don’t serve food just 16 hours’ notice to shift to outdoor service only. It also requires restaurants to reduce their capacity to 50%.
Juneau’s deputy city manager Mila Cosgrove says the decision was made swiftly on Friday evening after getting word of more positive cases from Juneau’s public health nursing department.
“Right as we were getting ready to leave for the day — literally like right at five o’clock — we got notified by Public Health that there were another seven positive test results that had come in,” she said. “So that brought the total positive test up to 18 for the day.”
Cosgrove noted that those later results were reported publicly by the city on Saturday.
So far, more than a dozen cases have been linked to a large social gathering at the end of August that was attended by workers from Juneau’s bar and restaurant industry.
Cosgrove said Public Health believes the cases from Friday were a mix of individuals linked to that event and community spread.
“That was enough to concern us to think that we should slow things down until we got an opportunity to finish the testing and see what the test results look like,” she said.
The emergency order is in effect for 14 days, but Cosgrove says the city may extend or lift it as needed.
Cosgrove said she spent much of the weekend fielding calls from business owners who wanted to know what exactly is allowed under the order. She explained that bars that have outdoor areas can continue to operate, but patrons must wear a mask when ordering drinks inside. The same thing applies to breweries.
“Socially distanced, right? So, tables can’t be close together. Social bubbles need to be spread out even if they’re outside,” she said.
Cosgrove said city staff will be monitoring businesses periodically to make sure they’re complying.
Overall, she said the response has been good from bar and restaurant owners.
“I’ve had a lot of really great conversations with business owners over the weekend where, you know, I feel pretty confident that they’re, they’re genuinely trying to protect the community,” she said.
The city recommends anyone who visited a bar in Juneau between late August and early September get tested, even if they don’t have symptoms.
A pop-up testing site at Centennial Hall saw 678 people from Thursday through Sunday.
Cosgrove says those test results should begin coming in late on Monday.
At 3:30 p.m. on Monday the city’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 47 active cases.