City officials mandate many travelers to Juneau quarantine themselves for 14 days

Capital City Fire/Rescue Captain Roy Johnston talks to people arriving at Juneau International Airport on Saturday. The airport sees multiple daily flights to and from Seattle — one of the epicenters of coronavirus spread in the United States. Voluntary screenings began last week. Beginning Monday, city officials are mandating 14-day self-quarantines for many travelers. ( Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Beginning Monday, many travelers coming to Juneau will be mandated to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

The Juneau Assembly passed the public health mandate in a special meeting on Sunday

The quarantine order applies to travelers coming from outside of Alaska, as well as to people coming from communities with known COVID-19 cases within the state. 

As of Sunday, 22 people have tested positive for the virus in the communities of Anchorage, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, Soldotna and Sterling. 

As of Sunday, 22 people have tested positive for the virus in the communities of Anchorage, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, Soldotna and Sterling. 

The Juneau Assembly’s quarantine order does not apply to travel tied to certain critical industries. The industries the Assembly exempted were flagged by state health officials in a health alert on Friday. The Alaska-specific list was based off of recent federal guidance on “essential critical infrastructure workers.” 

The self-quarantine order does not apply to work-related travelers in these fields: 

  • transportation and logistics, 
  • agricultural operations including fish and fish-processing,
  • energy – including oil and gas production,
  • critical manufacturing,
  • raw production for manufacturing, including mining and timber,
  • water, wastewater and sanitation,
  • government functions,
  • public safety and first-responders,
  • health care and public health,
  • financial services,
  • communications, and 
  • defense.

On Friday, state health officials strongly advised all Alaskans stop non-essential travel. It also urged Alaskans who are out of state to return home. 

The Juneau self-quarantine order is in effect until April 16.

The Juneau Assembly debated the measure and variations on the exemptions for several hours on Sunday. Much of the debate focused on balancing protection of public health, minimizing economic hardship, and infringing on civil liberties. The body passed it in a 6-3 vote. 

Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly members Wade Bryson and Loren Jones voted no. 

Jones was particularly concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. He said the federal government “doesn’t know what they’re doing,” and officials within it are seeking extraordinary powers during the crisis. 

“But I think, going down this route, we are continuing to go one step closer, one step closer to loss of civil rights,” Jones said. “That’s a fear that I have, that in order to assuage our concerns today, we’re going to put ourselves in a place where we’re not going to be able to go back.” 

Assembly members Michelle Hale and and Maria Gladziszewski were particularly grave about the health crisis to come. Hale offered an unsuccessful amendment to limit many of the industry exemptions.

Gladziszewski said she would be willing to take even stronger actions to “flatten the curve.” She said, without a vaccine, treatments or widespread testing, options are limited. 

“The only tool we have is, at this point, a blunt instrument of keeping people separate,” Gladziszewski said. “Soon, we should have more testing so we can ease up on these things. … The sooner we put it in place, … the less likelihood we have to have to keep it for longer.”

The Assembly plans to hold another special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to consider a “hunker down” emergency order further restricting people’s movement within Juneau. It’s modeled after an emergency order Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued on Friday.