EXPECT DELAYS – Lines of traffic move slowly down Sawmill Creek Road today as a repaving project progresses near the Indian River bridge. (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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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-7-20)

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 11:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 53

Total statewide – 3,536

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (14 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

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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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

High prices for chum salmon, low pink returns, and record numbers of fish in Deep Inlet have turned the Sitka fishing grounds into Route 66 this summer. “Overall it’s been a fantastic season so far,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, operations manager for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will head a gathering of Orthodox prelates from North American and abroad in ceremonies canonizing the first American Orthodox saints, Father Herman of Alaska. A group of Sitkans will fly to Kodiak for the event.

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