GRAB AND GO - Library patron Tina Johnson, left, and Joanna Perensovich, information services librarian, wear masks in the Sitka Library this afternoon. The library no longer has couches for patrons, but does have computer desks widely spaced apart for people to access for one-hour periods. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

AG Memo: State Offices Exempt from Mask Rule

By Sentinel Staff

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, co-chairs of the House State Affairs Cmmittee issued statements Monday condemning the decision by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson that they say undermines the health of state workers in Anchorage.

The attorney general issued a memo claiming that state offices – including the Atwood Building and other offices in Anchorage – are exempt from a Municipality of Anchorage requirement that face masks be worn in public places to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“By discouraging the use of face coverings in state buildings, the attorney general is placing state employees at greater risk of catching COVID-19 on the job,” Fields said in the news release. “This is the latest reckless decision by the Dunleavy Administration that puts front-line workers at risk.”

“If we want to beat COVID, it makes sense to use face coverings when indoors,” Kreiss-Tomkins added. “Just yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence noted that face coverings slow the spread of the virus, and our chief medical officer, Anne Zink, has been putting forward this message since the beginning of the pandemic. I encourage the attorney general to adopt the advice of our vice president, our chief medical officer, and nearly every other medical authority who has spoken on this subject rather than undermining efforts to use face coverings to help stop COVID-19.”

The legislators said overwhelming epidemiological evidence indicates that indoor environments including office buildings put employees at great risk of COVID-19 exposure, particularly if some employees or visitors are not using face coverings in communal spaces.

The State of Alaska operates some of the largest office buildings in Anchorage, including the Atwood Building, many floors of the Frontier Building, and Department of Transportation offices.

The House State Affairs Committee and Health and Social Services Committees have held multiple hearings at which leading epidemiologists and physicians emphasized the risk of indoor COVID-19 transmission and urged establishment of a face covering mandate to reduce spread of the virus, the legislators said.

Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the Clarkson memo was drafted at Dunleavy’s request. He said Dunleavy “is not opposed to the municipality’s decision on face masks” and the administration “has always allowed local governments, in consultation with the state, the ability to implement health mandates based on the circumstances in a community.”

But in this case, he said Dunleavy decided to preempt the mask mandate for state buildings and facilities in Anchorage. He said Dunleavy believes face masks should be voluntary and encourages their use.

The administration also promotes other measures aimed at slowing or preventing the virus’ spread, such as social distancing, Turner said. State agencies have implemented preventative measures, and many state employees are working from home and will be for the foreseeable future, he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended use of cloth face coverings in public settings where maintaining distance from others is difficult. The state has encouraged, but not mandated, such use.

 

Berkowitz said there are people with philosophical objections to wearing masks but he hoped people would largely comply with the order. When code enforcement officers typically respond to complaints, they advise individuals of the proper procedures and that’s usually enough to prompt compliance, he said Friday.

The state has reported 904 cases of COVID-19 involving residents and 183 cases involving non-residents. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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 and death.

Alaska has reported 14 deaths related to COVID-19.

 

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-10-20)

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 noon Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 51

Total statewide – 1,323

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 5 (2 resident; 3 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 13 (11 resident; 2 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 80.

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

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

 

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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.

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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.  

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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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