Travel ban, other statewide mandates implemented as coronavirus cases rise and Alaska sees first in-state death

Published: Mar. 27, 2020 at 5:03 PM AKDT
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Alaska's fight against COVID-19 continues, with state officials announcing additional cases - including at least one coronavirus-related death within state lines - and implementing new statewide mandates.

The announcement of what are essentially a travel ban and shelter-in-place order come as the Department of Health and Social Services also reports 16 new cases of the new coronavirus - including the first in Girdwood - as well as one death, as reported earlier in the day. The total number of cases statewide now sits at 85 and spans across Alaska.

"We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst," said State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink. "But what really brings me a lot of hope is to see Alaskans coming together and bringing solutions forward."

As for the mandates, they are statewide and will both be in place as of Saturday.

"We can put all kinds of terms on it," said Gov. Mike Dunleavy, "but in the end, it's really reduced to a couple of simple things. (Separation by) six feet or more is huge, probably one of our top two things. Another is wash your hands, constantly, and wipe down surfaces, constantly."

Effective at 8 a.m. on March 28, all personal intrastate travel between communities is prohibited. Travel for critical needs is allowed, the state said, which includes buying, selling, or delivering groceries and home goods; obtaining fuel for vehicles or residential needs; transporting family members for out-of-home care, essential health needs, or for purposes of child custody exchanges; receiving essential health care; providing essential health care to a family member; obtaining other important goods; and engaging in subsistence activities.

"When you hear, 'hunker down,' 'isolation,' et cetera," he said, "it's to keep people away from each other so that we're not spreading the virus and we're building up time."

The other mandate, which will go into effect at 5 p.m. on March 28, requires that everybody in Alaska - except for those engaged in essential health care services, public government services, and essential business activities - must "remain at their place of residence and practice social distancing."

Among other things, people are required to work from home as much as possible, immediately isolate any family members who are ill, and avoid public or private gatherings that include non-household members, regardless of the number of people involved. All non-essential businesses across Alaska must close.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, "A violation of a state COVID-19 Mandate may subject a business or organization to an order to cease operations and/or a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation."

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