Ketchikan city officials want quarantine information, but the state won’t release it

Ketchikan’s downtown cruise ship docks. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

A state COVID-19 health mandate requires that most arrivals from Outside quarantine for two weeks during the pandemic. They’re asked to give some basic information on arrival: name, recent travel history and the physical address where they’ll spend the next two weeks in quarantine in case they’re infected with the coronavirus.

But elected officials in Ketchikan have some questions about who can access this information.

“Just from a legal standpoint, if we ever were to pursue enforcement, having a mechanism to prove that they were supposed to be under quarantine — and therefore weren’t — would be something solid,” said Emily Chapel, Ketchikan city council member, during a meeting last Thursday.

City Attorney Mitch Seaver says it’s not clear. And that’s a concern.

“Because frankly, it’s rather nonsensical if we don’t know who these people are that are supposed to be following these rules,” Seaver said during Thursday’s meeting.

So far, Seaver says state officials have declined to share that information with the city, citing medical privacy laws. A spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services didn’t immediately respond to questions.

Chapel said she doesn’t necessarily think the city should automatically prosecute offenders.

“That being said, I think we do need a paper trail and something to protect our community if we did need to walk down that road,” she said.

She suggested that the city could pursue civil — rather than criminal — penalties.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy told reporters last week he’s asking Alaskans to voluntarily comply with the state’s 15 mandates. He said he didn’t want to use a “heavy hand” for enforcement. And he said he’s satisfied with the level of compliance so far.

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