State's second phase of reopening Alaska to begin Friday

Health officials in Mercer County have reported two additional positive cases of COVID-19. This...
Health officials in Mercer County have reported two additional positive cases of COVID-19. This brings the county total to 10. (MGN Image)(KWQC)
Published: May. 6, 2020 at 5:04 PM AKDT
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The second phase of reopening Alaska will begin this coming Friday, state officials said in a press conference Wednesday evening. The announcement comes after the Department of Health and Social Services on Wednesday morning reported a new coronavirus-related death, bringing the state total to 10. The state also now has 372 recorded cases.

The plan moves towards what Alaska's governor called a “personal responsibility model,” in which businesses and other services are able to increase capacity, but individuals are tasked with social distancing and getting themselves tested.

“We’re going to police ourselves," Gov. Mike Dunleavy said, "and I think it’s going to work out really well. I really do."

Among other changes, the relaxing of restrictions will include non-essential businesses being able to expand to 50 percent capacity and gatherings up to 50 people, such as those at churches and others, will be allowed. Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to move to indoor activities at 25 percent capacity, and bars, libraries and museums will be allowed to open at 25 percent capacity as well. Personal care services, retailers, pools and more will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. Walk-ins are also permitted now for certain businesses.

"When we went through Phase 1, we were looking at our numbers, we were looking at our metrics," Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. "Our numbers are still pretty much the lowest in the country. We're going to continue to watch these numbers, because health is No. 1.

"At the same time, we have to make sure we don't lose our economy," he said. "Our numbers compel us, in a way, to open up responsibly. It's going to fall on the individual to make sure we don't see a spike in cases."

As for CARES Act funding, that $1.2 billion in financial support is still awaiting approval by the Legislature.

"We are asking that the Legislature, the LB&A (or Legislative Budget and Audit Committee), will move quickly on this," Dunleavy said. "They can call a meeting at any moment. Work quickly to get this money into the hands of Alaskans."

Allocations for the act's money include $290 million for small business relief, $10 million for homeless prevention, and more, but questions remain over whether or not the committee can actually make decisions on behalf of the entire body.

In the days ahead, the state said, more details will be released regarding intrastate travel, organized sports, summer camps and more. The health mandate requiring a 14-day quarantine for those coming in from out of state is still in place, but will continuously be reevaluated as case numbers come in over the next few weeks, according to officials.

Phase 2 will officially be effective on May 8, according to DHSS. Staff for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who has had the Municipality of Anchorage running on a slightly slower schedule than the state for reopening, said the mayor will address the next phase of reopening in Anchorage specifically on Friday.

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