JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Anchorage is limiting gathering sizes and the number of people allowed in bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in response to rising coronavirus cases.
The order, by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, takes effect Friday and says that due to a “resurgence” in cases there is a need for increased restrictions on public interactions “to preserve health and save lives in our community.”
Of the 92 new resident cases statewide reported by the Alaska health department Wednesday, 42 were from the Municipality of Anchorage, which also includes Chugiak and Eagle River.
“We are experiencing exponential growth at this time,” Anchorage Health Department Director Natasha Pineda said Wednesday, noting in part the average daily rate of cases based on a seven-day average. She said there is widespread community transmission.
Berkowitz's order bars indoor gatherings of more than 25 people. Outdoor gatherings involving food and drink can have no more than 50 people, with some exceptions, such as farmers' markets, where distancing is maintained and onsite eating is discouraged, and drive-in events, where people stay in separate, spaced vehicles and food or other goods are not passed between vehicles.
Bars and nightclubs will be limited to 25% of maximum building occupancy. Restaurants and breweries will be held to 50% of their indoor capacity and outside areas limited to table service with tables at least 10 feet apart. Indoor entertainment and recreation venues, including gyms and theaters, will be limited to 50% capacity, the order states.
The order also includes visitor log requirements and requires businesses to help health officials inform customers of any known COVID-19 exposures in the workplace. Managers of hotels and other places of lodging will be required to regularly inform employees if the properties are housing individuals in quarantine or isolation due to travel, potential exposure or a COVID-19 diagnosis, and provide proper cleaning and protective supplies to employees. The names of any such individuals are to be kept confidential, the order states.
Berkowitz said he hopes people take this “in the spirit that it’s offered and the spirit that it’s offered is, we need to do everything we can to protect the health of this community. We need to do what we can by coming together to make sure that businesses are able to operate.”
He said there are plenty of issues to fight or be political about. “This is not one of them,” he said.
The new restrictions come on top of an existing order from Berkowitz mandating use of face coverings in certain indoor public settings.
The state has reported 2,132 cases of COVID-19 involving residents and 487 involving nonresidents. Nineteen deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported, including a new case involving a Fairbanks woman in her 80s with pre-existing conditions, the state reported Wednesday.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.