State leaders announced Thursday that they’re easing some of the restrictions on traveling into and out of Alaska.
The quarantine requirement for people flying into Alaska without a negative test will be five days. It had been 14 days, though travelers could reduce it to as little as seven days if they received a negative test after arriving.
The reduction in quarantine days for travelers into the state means that they will no longer have to take a second test to leave quarantine.
Also, Alaskans will be able to travel out of state for up to 72 hours without requiring a test, rather than the current limit of 24 hours.
And people who have jobs defined as critical infrastructure, including health care workers, will be able to travel out of state for any reason and follow their employers’ plans for testing and quarantine, rather than the state mandates for other travelers. Currently, these critical workers can rely on their employers’ testing plans only when they’re traveling for work reasons.
State emergency operations incident commander Bryan Fisher announced the changes in a briefing. But Fisher and other state officials didn’t explain why the changes are being made at a time when the statewide daily COVID-19 case numbers are the highest they’ve been so far. Daily reported positive cases in the state have reached triple digits for 22 straight days.
Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said evidence points to traveling being a risky behavior during a pandemic.
“We still know that, again, congregating, traveling, are higher-risk scenarios,”she said.
Zink said the current mandates for critical infrastructure workers traveling has had a practical downside.
“The impact on the critical infrastructure workforce, particularly for needing to travel for kind of non-work-related but super important things, has continued to challenge some of our ability to have the workforce in place,” Zink said.
Zink added that the state continues to allow people traveling inside Alaska to be tested at airports.
On Thursday, state health officials reported 155 new cases of COVID-19, including 153 residents and two nonresidents. Among the communities with the most newly reported cases were: Municipality of Anchorage, with 78 cases; the Bethel Census Area with 26 cases; and Fairbanks North Star Borough with 20 cases.
Alaska Public Media’s Lex Treinen and KTOO’s Rashah McChesney contributed to this report.