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A WALK IN THE PARK – Jim Moormann walks through Sitka National Historical Park this morning, as he has every day for the past two and a half years. This Saturday is National Trails Day, an annual event which began in 1993 to honor the National Trail System. In normal years volunteers help with trail maintenance in parks across the country. This year there will be no organized cleanup in Sitka and, without tour ship visitors, Sitkans will have the park to themselves. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Alaska Job Numbers Take Dive

By BECKY BOHRER
 
The Associated Press

JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska had 42,200 fewer jobs in April than a year earlier as coronavirus fears shut down or disrupted businesses at a time when many traditionally would start adding jobs for the summer, the state labor department reported Friday.

As restrictions ease, some of the jobs will return, but many seasonal jobs won’t happen this year, such as those serving the cruise ship industry, the report stated. 

Nearly 540 voyages to Alaska have been canceled, or 89% of expected sailings, according to Cruise Lines International Association Alaska. Streets that normally would be bustling with tourists in places like Juneau have been eerily quiet.

The upheaval was widespread, though the labor department said some sectors were hit harder. The leisure and hospitality industry, for example, saw its April job numbers cut nearly in half compared with April 2019. Retail had an estimated 5,000 fewer jobs, and construction, 1,800 fewer.

Health care had 3,600 fewer jobs, according to the report. The state earlier this month allowed elective procedures, which it had previously ordered delayed, to resume with additional protocols aimed at guarding against the virus. 

The only sector with more jobs than in April 2019 was the federal government, which had about 700 more because of Census hiring, the department reported.

Alaska’s April unemployment rate was 12.9%, compared with the national rate of 14.7%. It is the highest recorded rate for Alaska since reporting began in 1976, state labor department economist Karinne Wiebold said by email. The state’s rate in March was 5.2%, a low.

But she said comparing the virus-related shock to an oil-price related economic downturn “is like comparing apples and oranges.” The state hit an unemployment rate of 11.2% in 1986, which Wiebold said was the prior high and came during a oil-bust recession.

Dan Robinson, chief of research and analysis for the department, in a recent report cautioned against reading too much into Alaska’s unemployment rate. 

He said state and local rates are produced using models created by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that “struggle to capture short-term dramatic changes in the labor force, especially in small states with high seasonality like Alaska.” 

Job estimates and unemployment claims could be more helpful measurements in assessing the economy, he said.

Initial and continued unemployment claims, for the most recent reporting week, were sharply higher than a year ago.

Alaska has reported just over 400 cases of COVID-19, with 10 deaths. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

Travis Smith, who co-owns two restaurants in Juneau, said he left town in December for a brief sabbatical after coming off what he called his “best year ever” in business. From afar, he said he watched as things fell apart “in a matter of weeks.”

The state in March ordered restaurants closed for dine-in services; drive-up, delivery and drive-through options remained. Though the state in late April began letting restaurants resume dine-in service with limits on capacity, Smith said, from a business standpoint it didn’t make sense. 

Smith’s restaurant, The Rookery Cafe, has a long, narrow flow and “you do have to do so much business to make these things make sense,” he said. It recently opened for takeout service. 

As of Friday, businesses in Alaska were allowed to fully reopen. State guidance says businesses should help individuals with “personal mitigation strategies,” such as encouraging face coverings, regular cleaning and finding ways for customers to keep distance from each other. 

Collette Costa, co-owner and manager of the Gold Town Nickelodeon, said she has projects she wants to work on at her Juneau theater but also would be cautious about reopening. The theater has been doing drive-in screenings. 

She said she doesn’t know what the future will hold for her industry.

“I just know that I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to get anyone sick,” she said.

 

______________________

 

Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 6-5-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:50 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 11

Total statewide – 524

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 48, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

______________________

 

Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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