Anchorage hunkers down with a new mandate

Anchorage is hunkering down for December as a new mandate is imposed for the rising COVID-19 cases throughout Alaska.

A statue of William Seward is covered with a medical mask. Photo by Gillfoto from Wikimedia Commons.

The acting mayor of Anchorage Austin Quinn-Davidson, released the new mandate on Nov. 25 which will run from Dec.1 starting at 8 a.m. to January 1. The new restrictions aim to lessen the dramatic climb of COVID-19 cases while using as minimal limitations as possible, according to Davidson. Without seeing improvements in the COVID-19 case counts, the mayor says that there are no other options to help lessen cases.

“We do not want to impose tighter restrictions on the community. But without seeing improvement, we will have to act,” Davidson said in an Anchorage Daily News article.

Cases in Alaska have been on the rise since the loosening of Anchorage restrictions last April from a hunker down order mandated by former mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Case numbers were still in the single and double digits in May, when 17 new one-day total cases were a cause for alarm. Currently, daily reported cases are in the triple digits and this does not include the over 1,600 cases that were failed to be reported from lab error. So far, 120 Alaskans have died and over 30,816 cases have occurred.

Hospitals and medical staff are experiencing strain. The balance of available non-sick staff and resources, versus COVID caseload, can tip very easily. Providence Hospital recently acquired a mobile morgue. Their current morgue can only hold two bodies at a time, so they are preparing for a rise in deaths. Teanna Hehnlin is a senior nurse at Providence Hospital and is frustrated with Alaskans refusing to wear masks.

“People scoffing at the masking mandates and not wanting to do their equal parts and saying it’s a hoax, that doesn’t feel good,” she said. “We’re in here holding the hands of patients as they take their last breaths,” Hehnlinn said in an article with Anchorage Daily News.

New limitations for the hunker down mandate include the following:

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Bars and Restaurants

Indoor dining is no longer an option, but take-out and delivery will still be available from establishments that provide these services. Outdoor dining is still an option, but tables must be ten feet apart, groups can only be up to six people at one table unless it is a single household with children. Dining tents are allowed if half of the walled space is rolled down for ventilation.

In-Person Gatherings

Gatherings can be defined as people meeting for an event in one space that are not from the same household. The limit for indoor gatherings is six people and ten for outdoor. There are some exceptions to this, such as weddings and funerals that do not serve food and drink can have a maximum of 20 participants and if food and drink is present, six indoors and ten outdoors. There will not be more restrictions for religious services or politically affiliated gatherings, with a 50% capacity limit and social distancing. Masks are required for all gatherings.

Personal Care Businesses

Hair and nail salons, massage parlors and tattoo parlors are some examples of personal care services that will be limited to 25% capacity, with social distancing and mask-wearing still required. Services that require removal of masks even temporarily, such as tooth whitening, beard trimming, or lip waxing will be prohibited.

Entertainment and Recreation Facilities

Bingo halls, bowling alleys and theaters are some examples of indoor entertainment or recreation facilities that will be closed.

Organized Sports and Fitness

Competitions between teams indoors are prohibited but team practice is allowed if players wear masks and are at least ten feet apart. Outdoor competition is permissible with stipulations. Indoor gyms will operate at 25% capacity and masks are required. Group fitness classes are allowed with participants at least ten feet apart.