Alaska travel rules change again for visitors, now they’ll have to pay for COVID tests

COVID-19 testing facilities at the Juneau International Airport.
COVID-19 testing facilities at the Juneau International Airport.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 6:03 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska was poised to block visitors from coming into the state without a negative COVID test, now the state is changing course. Starting on Aug. 11, nonresidents will still be able to come to Alaska and get tested locally, but it will now cost them $250 per test.

Commissioner Adam Crum of the Department of Health and Social Services made the announcement at a press conference with the governor on Tuesday evening. Nonresidents will have to pay for tests in Alaska unless they got a test within 72 hours of arriving.

Visitors to Alaska would need to pay for COVID tests and quarantine while waiting for their results. Crum said that Alaskans could still get a COVID test for free.

Children under the age of 10 will not be required to have a negative COVID test coming to Alaska.

“Alaska residents traveling back to home communities in rural Alaska will now have the option of testing at the airport sites, to prevent bringing the virus into our small communities,” Crum said.

The announcement marked a change from a policy announced on July 28. At that time, the governor had said that starting on Aug. 11, nonresidents would have to arrive in Alaska with a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arriving.

“We’re not trying to make it difficult for folks to come here, we just want to make sure that we’re taking care of Alaskans first,” the governor had said last week, explaining restrictions were needed as COVID testing supplies have been strained across the state and country.

The governor’s announcement of new travel restrictions had caused concern for the visitor industry across the state.

Deb Hickok, the president and CEO of Explore Fairbanks, said there had been calls from people worried that travel would be too difficult under the new mandate. “To time it so you can have a test in 72 hours, that’s just infeasible,” she said.

The aurora viewing season begins on Aug. 21 and that industry was worried if they would be able to operate. “They’re particularly anxious, they need to know whether they’re going to open or not,” Hickok said.

In Juneau, there were similar concerns. Travel Juneau received calls from travelers who were canceling trips due to the new 72-hour testing window. “There’s just a high level of uncertainty out there,” said Liz Perry, the president and CEO of Travel Juneau.

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