Wrangell brings back testing requirement for unvaccinated travelers returning from out of state

Alaska Airlines’ milk run flight stops twice a day in Wrangell. (Sage Smiley/KSTK)

Unvaccinated visitors and residents returning to Wrangell need to be tested for COVID-19, Wrangell’s assembly decided Tuesday evening.

Borough manager Lisa Von Bargen said the community’s emergency operations center recommended bringing back mandatory testing for people arriving on the island who haven’t been inoculated against the coronavirus.

“We’re seeing [case] explosions as close as Cordova and Sitka,” Von Bargen told the assembly, “And it’s disturbing in other places around the country. I’m not hitting the panic alarm by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one tool that allows us to be able to catch positive cases if they’re there.”

Wrangell’s previous testing requirement lapsed in June.

The testing mandate is the same as the previous rule the assembly first approved in March and updated in May. It applies to all unvaccinated travelers arriving from outside Alaska, including those arriving on the ferry or cruise ships. In-state residents may choose to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in lieu of testing. There’s no enforcement or fines for those that flout the rules.

Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the regional tribal health provider, is under contract by the state to conduct the tests at the airport, which are open to everyone during the community’s twice-daily jet arrivals in the morning and afternoon.

The new travel testing mandate is set to expire when Wrangell’s current COVID emergency declaration is scheduled to lapse, but the assembly could renew the mandate before it expires.

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