New COVID surge hits Skagway the week before this year’s first cruise ship visit

a cloudy town
Quiet streets in Skagway in September, 2020. (Claire Stremple/KHNS)

Less than a week before the scheduled start of the summer cruise season, Skagway’s community health clinic announced a new local surge of COVID-19 cases. That comes on the heels of a federal judge’s decision to strike down mask mandates in the transportation industry.

Skagway’s Dahl Memorial Clinic’s Medical Director Brent Kunzler says the town is in one of its largest outbreaks of the pandemic, with upwards of 30 residents testing positive since the first week of April.

“What I have seen is mostly kids, some adults. Seems like it affects the kids a little harder this time,” Kunzler said.

He says it’s difficult to know the exact number of cases due to the increased use of home tests.

On Wednesday the clinic advised residents to wash their hands thoroughly, get vaccinated and boosted and wear masks in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

On Monday, a federal judge struck down the transportation mask mandate. The Alaska Marine Highway System and many airlines promptly announced masks would be optional moving forward.

With Skagway’s cruise season set to start next week, that leaves residents in charge of their own health safeguards as government entities have mostly dropped mandatory public health measures.

Kunzler says he’s not sure which variant could be responsible for the current surge in Skagway, but he stresses that COVID is still very much present.

“I don’t see it going away anytime soon. And it sure hasn’t, has it?” Kunzler said.

There are no public masking requirements in place in Skagway, including at City Hall. Businesses have the option to require masks.

The CDC still recommends isolating for five days after the onset of symptoms or a positive COVID test, followed by five days of wearing a mask in public for most people. It also still recommends wearing masks on public transportation.

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