Juneau adds restrictions on bars and restaurants as cases rise

A blue hut serves food in a rainy, gravel road
The Franklin Food Court in downtown Juneau. (Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

As Juneau’s number of positive COVID-19 cases trends upward, new policies are taking effect to control the spread

The local risk assessment is currently moderate. That means starting Friday at noon, bars and gyms will be limited to half capacity and indoor group gatherings must be kept to fewer than 50 people. 

During a briefing Wednesday, City Manager Rorie Watt said younger people, specifically people in their 20s and 30s, continue to see higher levels of positive cases statewide. That’s one reason bars are a concern. 

“We have not had a big bar-related spreading event, but we’re concerned that that’s an area of risk for us and rather than wait to see if it happens, we think the prudent course for the community is to be more careful in those types of settings,” Watt said. 

Watt said city staff will perform courtesy visits to bars and other businesses to distribute masks and information about the new measures. 

They’re hoping people comply voluntarily to avoid a situation like the one in Anchorage, where bars closed down completely this month due to the high number of cases attributed to  community spread. 

But in Juneau, only a small portion of recent cases has been attributed to community spread. Large-scale outbreaks like the ones at Kensington Mine and Alaska Glacier Seafoods, which are considered secondary transmission, have accounted for a large portion of the recent cases. 

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said during a briefing Thursday there have also been recent outbreaks at family gatherings like funerals and weddings. 

She urged community members to continue observing social distancing. 

“Especially large family gatherings, where people feel maybe a little more inclined to let their guard down, maybe make their social bubble a little bit bigger,” Cosgrove said. “We really urge members of the community to understand the risk that is associated with that and really keep their social bubbles as small as possible.”

The city will now hold COVID-19 updates over Zoom and Facebook Live every Thursday at noon. The public can submit questions at least a day in advance by email. 

Juneau is reporting 54 active cases of COVID-19. Six new cases were reported Wednesday.

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