Anchorage Mayor extends ‘hunker down’ order and delays tax day

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz at the Alaska Public Media studio on March 16.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced Friday the city is extending the hunker down order until April 14 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And he warned a further extension is likely.

“We cannot say with precision with when it will end, because we are dependent on the trajectory that the disease takes here,” he said.

The emergency order asks residents to minimize social contact and limit movement in the city to essential errands. It also closed non-essential business.

 For the most part, people are complying, he said, and he emphasized that each individual has a responsibility to reduce the risk to Anchorage and to Alaska.

“We need to hammer this virus early,” Berkowitz said, “and the harder and the more disciplined we are in response to it, the shorter period of time we’re going to be caught in its grip and the fewer of us are going to suffer the consequence of infection.”

The mayor also announced property tax bills would be delayed at least a month.

“We need to make sure that people have some measure of stability, get a chance to get their feet underneath them again,” he said.

It is one of several measures the city is taking to reduce the economic hardship the virus has inflicted. No utilities will be shut off, he said, and the city won’t garnish any of the stimulus funds people get from the state or federal government.

He said it’s too early to tell whether the hunker down order is slowing the spread of the disease, but he said there are signs Anchorage is stepping up to the challenge. The city’s code enforcement team has found most businesses are complying, he said.

“We have had conversations with people who should be closing down or curtailing operations. We haven’t issued  any fines,” he said. “We have the ability to do that.”

He also cited a report from a company that tracks data from cell phone signals. It says the miles travelled by Anchorage cell phone users is down considerably. (It’s a rough proxy for social distancing, since it would also include activities that do not put a person in contact with others.)

Berkowitz said people who want to report violations can contact his office.

The original order was to expire on March 31.

Read the latest coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska

Reporter Liz Ruskin contributed to this story.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie

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