The last time case counts were this high, Anchorage’s city government had a mask mandate, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration required COVID testing for visitors. But even as cases spike again, officials aren't reinstating those measures, citing the vaccine's availability.
“This pandemic is clearly not over, and it is being driven primarily by people who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist.
Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said his administration won’t require vaccine passports. But it is nonetheless getting ready to launch an online platform that Alaskans can use to look up and display their COVID-19 vaccination records.
The loosened guidance should make it easier to reopen schools and workplaces. Mask requirements are still in place for public transport and health care settings.
The authorization expands the pool of eligible vaccine recipients to about 87% of the total U.S. population, covering an additional 17 million children, and comes at a time when people under age 18 account for one 1 of every 5 newly reported coronavirus infections.
The federal Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the age group. Now, the state is waiting for approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before it starts vaccinating children ages 12 to 15.
Until now, the Pfizer vaccine had been authorized only for people age 16 and older. Pfizer asked the FDA to broaden its emergency use authorization for the vaccine after announcing in late March that clinical trials found "100% efficacy and robust antibody responses" in study participants who were 12 to 15 years old.
Still, the CDC is urging all people — vaccinated or not — to continue avoiding medium or large gatherings, since it's still learning how well the vaccines work to curb the spread of the virus.