State revises travel mandate, offering testing as alternative to quarantine starting Saturday

Capital City Fire and Rescue Captain Roy Johnston talks to people arriving at Juneau’s International Airport on Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Juneau, Alaska. The Juneau International Airport sees multiple daily flights to and from Seattle — one of the epicenters of coronavirus spread in the United States. Starting Thursday, passengers arriving at the airport can request to have their temperature checked. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will be advised to contact medical providers and to self-quarantine. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

State leaders said travelers to Alaska who take a test before or at their arrival should take a second test seven to 14 days later under the revised state mandate that goes into effect on Saturday. 

The revised mandate, released on Wednesday, said those coming into the state should minimize their contact with others until they have the results from the second test. 

Read the mandate.

RELATED: The state has revised its two-week quarantine requirement. Here’s what we know about the changes.

Under the revised mandate, out-of-state travelers can choose between two alternatives to a 14-day quarantine: 

  • either have a negative result from a test taken within 72 hours of flying, or 
  • combine a negative result from a test taken within five days before flying with a second test on arrival. 

Travelers without a test can get one on arrival, but they must self-quarantine until they have the results. 

Travelers will be required to fill out a declaration form regarding testing when they’re flying to the state. There will be screeners at the Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan airports to collect the forms and offer the tests and vouchers.  Tests also will be given in Wrangell, Petersburg and Gustavus, state Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said. 

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said taking one test isn’t the equivalent of the 14-day self-quarantine that the state has required since late March. 

“We’re really trying to minimize that risk as much as possible to Alaskans, while opening up as much as we can,” Zink said. 

RELATED: 18 more Alaskans, another nonresident seafood worker test positive for coronavirus

Zink said a test given seven days after infection will identify roughly 90 percent of cases, while a test given 14 days later will identify roughly 96 percent. She noted that Vermont is using a seven-day quarantine with a test at the end for out-of-state travelers, while Hawaii continues to use a 14-day quarantine. 

Travelers will be given a voucher they can use at testing sites. Zink said the state is working to identify which sites will be able to take the vouchers.  

The mandate applies to all travel from Outside, including Alaskans returning home. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said his administration will actively seek feedback as he evaluates how to revise the mandate in the future. 

“We’re going to want to hear from you as travelers, we’re going to want to hear from you as businesses, entities, what’s working, what’s not,” he said. “Nothing is foolproof in this pandemic.”

Dunleavy said he’s trying to strike a balance. He noted that some people in the state want to continue with 14-day quarantines, while others don’t want any travel restrictions.

Dunleavy emphasized that the state is relying on people to work together to minimize the spread of the virus. 

“We have a duty — I should say — to each other to try and not impact each other with this virus, if we can,” he said. 

Zink said that if there’s a large increase in the number of cases inside the state that stressed the state’s testing capacity, the state could stop offering tests at the airports. 

When asked whether he would consider mandating the use of face masks in places where social distancing is difficult, Dunleavy said the state would continue to rely on Alaskans to “do the right thing.”

“The big thing I would ask when it comes to masks, is simply this: If you see somebody wearing a mask and you don’t want to wear a mask, give them a thumbs up,” he said. “If you see somebody not wearing a mask and you’re wearing a mask, they’re your fellow Alaskan. And nobody’s trying to hurt each other.  We’re all trying to do the right thing in a very difficult situation.”   

He added that mask wearing is about protecting others, and that people don’t know the health conditions of other people they encounter, or that of their family members. 

Send us your questions — big and small, serious and trivial — about this topic or anything else to do with the pandemic in Alaska and we’ll send a reporter or expert out to find the answer. Call 907-586-1600 to leave a recorded question. Or email us at coronavirus@alaskapublic.org.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when the revised mandate goes into effect. It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, not Friday.