City Takes Cautious Steps in Reopening

Category: Local News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2020 16:22

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

The city’s “hunker down” resolution has expired and the quarantine ordinance for travelers to Sitka was rescinded Tuesday, but many precautions are still being advised to prevent and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Assembly Tuesday rescinded Emergency Ordinance No. 2020-14 on self-quarantine of arriving travelers, on the grounds that it was a duplicate of a state mandate set to expire or change next week. Tuesday also was the expiration date for Resolutions 2020-06 and 2020-08, the shelter-in-place regulations Sitkans had been following.

“These changes result in the reopening of many businesses and group gatherings,” said a news release from the city’s “unified command” coronavirus task force. 

“For both employers and employees, there may be uncertainty and anxiety around reopening a business,” the announcement said. “Having plans in place can help to alleviate concerns. Public health officials are available to provide guidance to businesses on reopening.”

The Sitka “hunker down” ordinance was in effect for 45 days, city administrator John Leach noted in an interview today. 

“The state is looking at data, and we’ve looked at our local numbers, it seems reasonable to have a cautious, measured approach to reopening,” he said.

But at the same time, he said, Sitkans should “continue to be good neighbors.”

“In the same way we’ve lined up with the state in a measured reopening, I strongly urge citizens to follow state guidelines,” Leach said.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said she is available to provide guidance to businesses that are reopening, with respect to the state mandates in place.

“They can ask questions, they can share their plans,” Ewing said today. 

Signage, capacity, air circulation, face masks, cleaning and disinfecting, and social distancing, are among the considerations she reviews with businesses. She is also answering questions from individuals.

Ewing said some are anxious about reopening, and want to do so responsibly.

“They don’t want to be the first (case), they don’t want their company associated with COVID and they are wanting to do the best they can,” she said. “They’re concerned for both the clients and themselves, they want to protect themselves, and the customers need to feel safe.”

Ewing said she is happy to brainstorm on ideas and solutions with those who call. She is also available for questions on quarantining and testing capabilities. She added that many companies are asking those questions, “because the mandates keep changing and so does the testing availability.”

“It gets confusing with all the mandates, and the subsections of the mandates,” Ewing said. She is available weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 747-3255.

Today’s unified command advisory recommends that residents “adhere to all state and federal mandates regarding travel, social distancing of 6 feet from others, and good hygiene – wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, remain at home when sick, wear face coverings when in public, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.”

City Hall and other municipal buildings have been reopened, but with special sanitizing procedures in effect. Plexiglas barriers have been put up in some places, and appointments are required as some offices.

“This is to ensure compliance with all Federal (including OSHA), state, and local regulations,” the advisory said. “When entering municipal buildings, customers are asked to follow posted social distancing guidelines and are encouraged to wear a face covering.”

Information on hours of operation for each city department is available at www.cityofsitka.com, or by calling 747-1818.

Previously closed SEARHC facilities are open, with protocols to ensure patient safety, such as; pre-screening patients by phone, making waiting areas social distance friendly, enhancing on-site disinfection, requiring face masking of all patients and staff, and testing all SEARHC employees, the news release said.

SEARHC’s COVID hotline is available to answer questions and respond to health concerns, at 966-8799 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1 (800) 613-0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse, the news release said.

Links provided for COVID info are:

https://covid19.alaska.gov/.

www.covid19.searhc.org, and 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.