COVID-19 case shuts down Atwood Building in downtown Anchorage

Workers were leaving the Atwood Building in downtown Anchorage on Friday, July 24, after concern about COVID-19 cases closed the state office building. (Julia O’Malley/Alaska Public Media)

The state Robert B. Atwood office building in downtown Anchorage closed down Friday due to COVID-19 exposure risk for employees. 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has offices in the building and has been giving regular COVID-19-related press conferences there as well. Dunleavy’s spokesperson Jeff Turner confirmed in an email that the governor has been working there and said that he has already received multiple COVID-19 tests, and will continue to receive tests, “regardless of any positive cases.”

The state announced that the building had closed in a release Friday afternoon. The building was closed at noon, and will remain closed through the weekend for cleaning by janitorial staff. The building is expected to reopen on Monday. 

According to the news release, the decision was made after an employee tested positive, though the person did not show symptoms and was found through contact tracing.

Fewer than 500 hundred people are currently working at the building, which houses several state departments, according to Turner. Normally, he says, there are closer to 1,400 employees working there.

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Earlier this week, the Department of Natural Resources said that an employee with the Division of Oil & Gas working at the Atwood Building tested positive. That employee got tested on July 15 after reporting feeling unwell the day before and the results came back positive on July 17, according to DNR spokesperson Dan Saddler in an interview on Tuesday. Several tests were conducted and several employees were sent home, but tests came back negative. A cleaning was conducted that weekend as well. 

Saddler said that “a handful” of employees were exposed in that case. He couldn’t say whether or not the employees were wearing a mask. While workers indoors are mostly required to wear masks in the Municipality of Anchorage, state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson wrote in a memo that the order didn’t apply to state buildings. On Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that all state employees would have to wear masks at work. 

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On Friday, Saddler, speaking from the Atwood Building as he and his staff packed up their things, said he wasn’t sure if the first case was related to the original case, but that based on the pattern, he said he didn’t believe so. 

This story has been updated with new information.