31 Juneau residents test positive for COVID-19 after bar outbreak

A person with a mask is seen walking across a road in teh reflection of a bar window
People, masked and unmasked, wander through downtown on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Juneau. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

At least 31 people have tested positive for COVID-19 after a single indoor event in late August. 

The outbreak, which has heavily impacted people who work in bars in Juneau, prompted city officials to close bars for indoor service and reduce restaurants to half-capacity. 

Juneau City Manager Rorie Watt said city officials were pushed into that decision by information about how many new cases had been diagnosed. 

“If it feels heavy-handed that we issued an emergency order on Friday, I can only tell you we felt like we had no choice,” he said.

Watt and Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove spoke during a Tuesday COVID-19 update that Juneau city officials hold weekly. 

Test results from a weekend pop-up testing site at Centennial Hall targeted toward people who have been going to bars in Juneau are just beginning to roll in. Cosgrove said there was a delay at the state testing lab that processes the city’s tests, but that has been fixed. 

She also gave an update on the city’s latest COVID-19 case numbers: there were 13 new cases identified on Tuesday. 

So far, the city has had 252 residents and 98 non-residents test positive for the virus since March. City officials report that three people are currently at Bartlett Regional Hospital being treated for the virus. 

Watt said the COVID-19 outbreak among bar staff in Juneau is “a cautionary tale of how quickly things can go in the wrong direction.” 

Both Watt and Cosgrove said residents have to be vigilant and should avoid others who aren’t in their social bubble. 

“You really can’t let your guard down,” Watt said.